Trailer serves coffee, empowerment by choosing women-owned suppliers

Tucked away in a parking lot on Rosewood Avenue, a gray trailer is surrounded by what looks like a jungle of cacti and various plants. A big, white sign with drawings of neighborhood regulars and the words “Sister Coffee” in bright red drapes over the counter.

Keanu Reeves, a short-legged pug, greets customers as they walk up to buy a cup of coffee. He snorts at their feet.

The trailer-turned-coffee shop, Sister Coffee, is one of three food trailers in the parking lot. The other two serve barbecue and deli sandwiches.

Next to the trailer is a picnic table, with small plants in various pots — from seashells to mugs and creamers to terra cotta — lined up down the middle.

There’s even a book exchange: a red magazine stand with the infinity symbol and the words “books; coffee” inscribed inside the teardrop-shaped circles. People stock the stand and take the free books. A tin roof provides shade on hot Texas days.

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There’s a reason for all the green, too: Owner Amanda Farris gives a free cup of coffee in exchange for a plant.

“I wanted a coffee jungle,” she says.

Farris works the trailer five days a week; Keanu accompanies her when it’s not too hot or cold outside.

Sister Coffee is one of the only feminine-specialty coffee shops in Texas. Farris’ friend Jenny Mulder originally opened the shop a year ago and ran it on and off for some months, and it wasn’t until the beginning of 2015 that Farris officially took over.

On top of being the “world’s tiniest coffee box,” as Farris puts it, she believes there’s a need for feminine-specialty coffee shops.

“I try to work with as many women in business as I can,” says Farris, 27.

The coffee she sells comes from San Francisco-based Ritual, a coffee roaster owned by a woman. “Choosing to do that as much as possible makes you assess how you’re going to do business. It’s really fun to be able to use this platform to support women and their endeavors.”

Farris pulls out her dog- and cat-shaped ceramic creamers for customers and asks which to-go cup they prefer: the one with the infinity sign or the one with the simplistically drawn, cartoon-style breasts.

For those interested in more than just a to-go cup, Farris sells ceramic mugs with the same cartoon breasts that grace the paper cups, which Mulder drew when she was the owner. Gopi Shah, a local ceramic artist, designed the mugs just for the shop.

“The cups are very much my style, so it wasn’t a big leap to try to make them fit,” says Shah, 28, who owns Gopi Shah Ceramics. “What’s interesting about pottery is what you do outside the wheel — how you decorate and make it unique.”

Farris says the idea behind the mugs was about not sexualizing that part of women’s bodies; just “letting them be boobs and exist in the world.”

Shah says the coffee shop “is really about what Amanda brings — her personality, the environment she set up around the trailer. People get to know her and develop a relationship.”

“It’s empowering to work with women who are successful in their own businesses,” the ceramic artist says.

Katie Kubiak, barista at Sister Coffee, was drawn to the coffee shop because of the strong community of women surrounding it.

“We’re all sisters,” says Kubiak, 29. “I’ve never seen another coffee shop where even the branding is so women-specific.”

She says it’s different for women to get on their feet because they’re judged more often, so it’s important to support and push women to do what they want. The atmosphere that Sister Coffee creates for its customers, especially women who come to drink coffee and talk about their projects, is inspiring to her.

“I don’t claim to be a feminist because there’s a gray area of what that is these days,” says Kubiak. “But I believe you should be allowed to do whatever you want to do, like breast-feeding in public.”

Although the shop welcomes every kind of customer – even dogs – Farris enjoys having a feminine feel to it and working with as many women as possible.

Nathan Black, a regular, frequents the coffee shop because it’s a nice break from those packed with students and their laptops.

“This is a community,” he says. “It’s a coffee shop without Wi-Fi, so I come and talk to people I don’t know.”

Farris also is working on a new womencentric venture. Catchtilly will be a head shop and lifestyle shop selling pipes, quilts, planters and more made by women, opening in August.

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