Amalia Litsa didn’t plan on debuting her cafe, Dear Diary Coffeehouse, in the midst of a coronavirus shutdown. The longtime Austinite is fierce, not insane.
But Litsa had been working toward this goal – of having her own small business, of running a coffee-enhanced vegan venue that was also a community place for creative people to gather and do their artmaking thing – she’d been working toward that goal for years.
And, at the beginning of March, it was almost a reality. So close that she could just about taste it. Only another logistic hurdle or two to clear, right?
At first, it was construction delays and permit hold-ups that threatened Dear Diary’s planned 2020 grand-opening-during-SXSW debut. Litsa and business partner Joshua Adrian were stressed: Would everything be ready by March 16th, all the architectural upgrades finished, all the required documents filed, so their new cafe at 1212 Chicon could profit from the couple hundred thousand people who’d flood into our festivaled-up metropolis? How damned long does it take a city inspector to –
But then, well, you know: SXSW itself was canceled.
And about a week after that, Austin went into full shelter-in-place lockdown with social distancing.
“Corona obliterated the ground beneath us,” Litsa recounts in a recent email. “Where we saw green fields, we now saw nothing. Very suddenly, the launch went away. There would be no events, no meetups, no foot traffic, no neighborhood regulars. We thought we were spending our way up, but the world flipped over, and we realized we had dug ourselves into a hole. We held onto our manager, but let the baristas go. Even so, we’d need to sell the equivalent of 1,177 drip coffees our first week to simply not dig ourselves deeper – never mind loan repayment or any of that. I had anticipated putting effort into earning our place amongst Austin’s beloved vegan and coffee establishments. But could we survive as a newcomer in a world where those very establishments were shutting down and asking for donations?”
This remains to be seen – for Amalia Litsa and Joshua Adrian and all of us.
But you should know that Dear Diary is open right now, citizen. And that they intend to stay open, albeit with altered hours, and they’re serving up a delicious array of coffee (sourced from those acclaimed Third Coast folks, no less) and fresh vegan food for pick-up – or free delivery, if you live in the ‘hood.
“Our soft opening on April 4th was really heartwarming and wonderful,” Litsa tells us. “Lots of people ordered takeout and delivery just to show their support. We made about 1.5 weeks of sales in that one day.”
Which is great, for now, under the circumstances. And the only thing better? Is if Dear Diary Coffeehouse can survive – if they’re still around once this particular coronavirus has passed into ugly history.
Because – in addition to what we can access from this new house-of-noms-and-caffeine via the internet – because the actual, community-inviting, lovingly designed venue includes a small library of books just waiting to be read. And will always have an array of art supplies on sale, for your creative pleasure. And boasts plenty of benchside outlets for your laptops. And –
Yeah – sigh – we know. Our fingers are crossed, too, neighbor.
Copyright © 2023 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.