Celia Moore, the owner of Beans Café, one of my favorite places to hang out to write, was featured in a front cover story in our local Energy Corridor Living magazine. I wrote Celia Moore to congratulate her and inquire about writing a blog about her as part of my blog’s overall purpose to promote people, programs and programs that do something useful for society. In response, she sent me her thoughts about the future of our Energy Corridor in West Houston. I’ll share some of her thoughts in a moment, but first let me introduce you to this neighbor.
I knew about Beans Café for several years before I met Celia. A colleague suggested we meet there to get better acquainted. Though it is very close to our house, I hadn’t checked it out prior to that invitation. Now I go there often and invite others to meet me there as well. I got to know Celia when I got brave enough to ask her if I might try to sell a few books there. She graciously set up a time to do so and promoted it with some posters. I went a few times with books in hand and had several great conversations with patrons, but didn’t sell many books. No matter. I still love the place.
Almost as Good as Home
Rhonda Texter’s article in Energy Corridor Living about Celia describes Beans Café as place you immediately feel at home. She’s right about that. The furniture looks like something your grandmother might have passed along to you, making the place feel more like a community living room than a business. Celia moved to Houston in 1977 with Exxon. She relocated a couple of times, and now again lives in this neighborhood. Her business degree from the University of Texas at Austin, combined with earlier jobs as an accountant, prepared her to start her own small business in 2010. With no prior experience in either coffee or small businesses, she’s succeeded due to a lot of on-the-job training and help from her family, including her husband, William and her children, Anthony, Colleen, and Angela.
Through multiple challenges she’s stayed focused on her original vision: to create a unique, warm ambiance where you can find yourself. She also helps her neighbors by inviting the Houston Public Library to bring over their Bookmobile, serving as a resting place for the Energy Corridor District’s social bike riders, and showcasing work by local artists. Occasionally local musicians also show up to entertain. There are board games to encourage people to linger. One of the tables has a checker board top.
Challenges Come and Eventually Go
One of the major challenges she had to overcome was cleaning up after Hurricane Harvey flooded her store, along with many others in the area. Like many local businesses, she had to close for months for repairs. Some businesses still haven’t reopened two years later. Another major challenge began before Harvey and continues to the present moment. That is the seemingly endless construction project along Memorial Drive from Beltway 8 most of the way to Highway 6.
Current and Future Opportunities
In spite of such challenges, Celia is excited about present and future opportunities for the Energy Corridor. In her words:
We are at a pivotal point in time regarding the future direction of our Energy Corridor community. We have an opportunity to emerge from the havoc of Hurricane Harvey and the Memorial Drive construction. We can be an attractive community and a New-Energy Corridor that harvests the authentic energy of our residents and small businesses. We can become a community that is an inclusive, diverse, green, authentic, complete community of small business, residents, great schools, within a walkable/bikeable infrastructure. It will bring employers because it is a place where people want to live.
Much of this already exists, but first we have two problems to overcome.
- Employment prospects in Energy Corridor continue to diminish, with existing employers in the downtown area or relocating. If Oil and Gas jobs are the raison d’etre for the Energy Corridor, they are drying up (again).
- Memorial & Eldridge Construction. The whole Memorial Road construction project that’s been unfolding over the past four years has made traveling through or doing business along Memorial a hassle. This construction has hurt small business on Eldridge and on Memorial. The construction at Eldridge is compounded because the Energy Corridor has a separate contractor, at the same intersection, with a different project.
Given that the construction will hopefully end this year, and oil and gas jobs are on the decline, right now it is the intersection of opportunity and momentum to determine the future direction of the Energy Corridor.
Small Businesses Anchor Communities
Celia goes on to describe some additional issues related to localized politics, but also brings up an important concern for all communities. Displacing small, local business costs a community more than the individual local business squeezed out by a large corporation. Local businesses are to a community what plants are to an area prone to erosion. They play an important part in preserving the quality and viability of a community. Local small business owners are neighbors. They vote in local elections, care about local schools, and participate in local events. They provide employment for local people and often support other local businesses and community organizations.
Bigger is not always better and customer service still matters. Small businesses are better equipped to respond to local needs because the people making the decisions about how to respond to a situation live in the zip codes where the issues play out.
There is a place for large scale organizations with multi-million or even multi-billion-dollar budgets. There is an equally critical place for small, locally owned and operated businesses such as Bean’s Café. I think I’ll stop here and go get me a cup of coffee over there now. If you live anywhere in the West Energy Corridor of Houston, I encourage you to stop by yourself.
Some information for this blog came from an article by Rhonda Texter in Energy Corridor Living August 2019 issue.
Thank you for stopping by to meet one of my neighbors. If you got this blog from a friend, you can get your own FREE subscription at HowWiseThen. Given that hurricanes and others sorts of disasters appear to be the new normal, I’ve put together a list Disaster Response Tips. It’s yours for the downloading.
We now have a release date for Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures. It’ll be available September 2020, in honor of the 400th anniversary of the famous voyage and the continent-changing events that followed.