Three Rivers Coffee Company in Waxahachie has drawn upon inspiration from the north lands for everything from its menu to décor to atmosphere. As an example, the recently opened coffee shop features hearty drinks evocative of the Alaskan spirit among its offerings.
For owners and “Alaskan expats,” Lorena and Chris Richie, Three Rivers reflects a long-time dream – with the influence of their once home state readily evident to customers.
“You can’t take Alaska out of your background if you’ve lived there,” Lorena said. “There’s a very personal meaning behind everything that we do. Most of my life was in Alaska.”
The coffee shop’s website links to Lorena’s blog post and provides some details of growing up in the 49th state, such as being chased by moose, going days without seeing daylight (and the reverse of not seeing darkness), going dog mushing and swimming in glacier water.
Born and raised on the Kenai Peninsula “and next to rivers everywhere,” Lorena thought of the three main rivers there – the Kenai, the Russian and the Kasilof – when coming up with the name, Three Rivers Coffee Company.
“Fishing is really big there,” she said of the outdoors lifestyle. “There’s salmon, halibut … the fresh fish is delicious.”
It was on the Kenai Peninsula where Lorena met Chris, who had moved back to Alaska with his family as a teen. They’ve now been married more than 11 years and have three children, two of whom were born in Alaska. The family has been in Waxahachie since 2011, where Chris is also an entrepreneur and runs his own IT company.
“There’s so much coffee there (in Alaska); there are drive-through kiosks everywhere, multiple locations per block,” Lorena said. “We moved here and we saw where there were hardly any coffeeshops – and that was something we wanted to help with.”
Opening a coffee shop “was something we wanted to do before moving here but because there are so many coffee shops there (in Alaska) it was something we didn’t feel comfortable doing at the time,” she said. “We moved here and saw the need; we waited until that season in our life when we were ready to take on this dream.”
In opening Three Rivers, Lorena has drawn from her experience working in three different coffee shops: one in Alaska and two in Texas. She’s strived to bring the unique Alaskan type of coffee experience to Texas – and has drawn kudos from other Alaskan transplants who’ve come through Three Rivers’ doors.
“We have a lot of inspiration that we’ve pulled from where we grew up in Alaska,” Lorena said. “We pulled a lot of our drinks from there. There are polar bears in Alaska so we named one of our drinks the Polar Bear – and it’s a really popular drink. Our Alaskan Special is named for a very common drink up in Alaska.”
In Alaska, the latter is called a Red Bull Special because of the energy drink incorporated into it. “We don’t use Red Bull,” Lorena said. “We dropped the Red Bull (and incorporated a different energy drink) and decided to name ours after the state we got it from.”
It was important from the start for the Richies that Three Rivers use a single origin coffee bean, meaning a coffee bean that comes from a single country so as to provide consistency and quality.
“My husband and I went to about 20 roasters in the DFW area,” Lorena said. “We ended up going with Novel Coffee Roasters in North Dallas. Being able to choose a local roaster, we’re able to have fresh beans continuously and able to serve a quality product. Having a local roaster is definitely helpful with our quality.” They’ve worked with their roaster to have a special roast they’ve named the Gingerbread City, which is a light roast Ethiopian bean.
“For each drink, the beans aren’t ground until you order your drink – we grind it right there,” Lorena said, noting, “We can pretty much make anything.” Menu offerings include “a lot” of flavors, including sugar-free ones. The shop also offers a variety of teas, including chai and vanilla matcha.
“We try to make sure we have options for anyone who wants a drink,” she said.
The focus on using local vendors is a consistent business practice for Three Rivers.
“We focus on local vendors like what we’ve done with our tea and our coffee roasters and our baked goods,” Lorena said. “We have baked goods from two bakeries in the DFW area – and we’re hoping to get more as we grow and experiment in the kitchen.”
She also worked with a local designer on the décor. “I told her the vision and she helped put it together in a way we could work with,” Lorena said. “All the furniture, except the chairs, is made by a local man. We just told him what we wanted and he came up with it.” Among the special furniture pieces is a large table etched in lines that have been filled with a blue epoxy to represent the rivers inspiring the Three Rivers’ name.
The desire to use local, small vendors stems from the Richies’ own entrepreneurial efforts.
“We want to support local and small businesses because that has helped us grow our IT company and now Three Rivers,” Lorena said. “We want to pass that on.”
The couple displays local artists’ works that are available for sale on the walls; they also anticipate having musicians play acoustic sets at the shop.
“Artists don’t typically have a storefront, the same with musicians and bakers,” Lorena said. “We just want to pass on that support. It’s so important to get that feedback and support from the community around you, otherwise your small business won’t survive. We felt that, we know that, we lived through that, so we want to pass that on.”
As the store grows, another addition will be “cupping classes,” which are coffee tastings – similar to wine tastings.
“You’re able to experiment with the small details in coffee and different roasts, and I think that will help people who haven’t done it and who have,” Lorena said. “It’s a fun experience. You can go on a date or bring a group of friends. I’m hoping to start those in January.”
She’s appreciative of the welcome extended by the community, saying, “Everyone has been very supportive, very full of grace. We’ve had a few hiccups to get around and everyone’s been so patient. It’s been very humbling and nice to see.”
The Richies invite people who haven’t had a chance to stop by to do so and experience a bit of Alaska in Waxahachie.
“We really like to engage the customers,” Lorena said. “We chat with everyone.”
Keep up with Three Rivers Coffee Company on Facebook, Instagram and its website.