Some prefer to keep their work and home lives totally separate. Not Luciana Gómez. Her new shop, Cafe Victoria, features just the type of organic milk or French jam you would find in her own cupboard or refrigerator. It's just a stone's throw from her home, too.
Gómez came up for the idea for Cafe Victoria while walking through Victory Park near her apartment. With the American Airlines Center near its core, the area is better known for tricky parking situations and tall buildings than a friendly, laid-back neighborhood. But, what many might not know is that more than 3,500 individuals live in the development's nine residential buildings, according to a Victory Park rep, and with new housing planned, that number continually rises.
For Gómez, that signaled an immediate need for an accessible, centralized spot that could help foster community.
"I have pressure to succeed because I have to live with these people," she says, joking.
There's something to it: Gómez chose the storefront at 2422 Victory Park Ln. to fill a need she felt personally. With a new Whole Foods Market about a half mile away, Victory Park was feeling increasingly less insular. Denizens no longer had to drive into Oak Lawn or far into Uptown for basic necessities. A smattering of new restaurants and businesses like Buda Juice, Classic Pilates, Cook Hall and Joanna Czech spa have joined more established spots like Naga Thai Kitchen and an offshoot of Olivella's Neo Pizza Napoletana. A Cinépolis USA movie theater is expected in 2017, according to a press release.
Gómez envisioned her shop would keep neighbors in a self-sustaining community and encourage visitors to stay a bit longer, pursing other small businesses. On her walk, she noticed an empty space and she says inspiration took hold. She went home immediately and worked out a business plan in about three hours.
But, simply opening a shop wasn't enough. It had to be a good shop, one that Gómez would want to visit herself. As luck would have it, she was taking a trip to Paris the following week, so she refocused her travel plans so that they became almost a fact-finding mission. She visited shop after shop in Paris and later during a trip to Berlin, and everything she saw -- from cafe atmospheres to the attention to craft and quality by professional baristas -- confirmed her own ideas. Though her background was in advertising, she decided to learn everything she could about high-end coffee.
"I believe the best thing to do is surround yourself with great people," she says. She sought out the person responsible for what she considered the best cups in Dallas, Oak Cliff Coffee Roaster's Shannon Neffendorf.
She says Neffendorf was skeptical, initially. Opening a business carries inherent risk, and that's only compounded when it's out of one's field of knowledge. But, Gómez was dogged and Neffendorf a willing teacher. She learned the ins and outs of quality coffee making so that she could, in turn, train and manage staff the right way.
That emphasis on doing things the "right way" forms the basis of Cafe Victoria. Gómez purchased a robin's egg blue La Marzocco espresso machine from Florence, Italy -- widely considered the gold standard among professional baristas -- and placed it forefront to reiterate that "coffee is the center of the shop."
Then, she partnered with other well-regarded local artisans that she loves: Empire Baking Company, Amazeballz and Bisous Bisous Patisserie in order to fill out the menu with items like breakfast sandwiches, scones, croissants, cake balls and macarons.
The shop officially opened on Jan. 16, and Gómez reports that she's been thrilled with interest, particularly by return customers and those who like to hang around at the cafe's tables and couches a bit, something that's happened more than she expected. That's one thing she loves most about Dallas, she says: People here are open to new things and appreciate good ones. It's less jaded, she thinks, than other big cities, and that's why she's hopeful she will be able to eventually bring other new concepts to the city.
But, not another Cafe Victoria. There will only be one.
"People often think my name is Victoria, but I'm not that egocentric," the owners says, with a laugh.
Cafe Victoria is "named for the neighborhood, and this concept was purposefully designed with Victory Park in mind. I wanted to make something really special for the people here."
Cafe Victoria is currently open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Gómez plans to extend those hours to 7 p.m. in February. Update: As of Feb. 15, Cafe Victoria is open 7 days per week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.