When Julie Balkman opened Wake the Dead Coffee House more than a decade ago, she hoped it would not only become a popular caffeination destination but also a community gathering place for locals, creatives and students.
After her father-in-law offered to rent her the property she would later buy, Balkman knew it was time to make her out-of-the-box coffeehouse concept come to life. Balkman took inspiration from haunted houses she visited as a child in Virginia and her general affinity for all things spooky and infused it into the interior design of Wake the Dead.
“I wanted it to feel like your grandma’s home, which feels a little haunted, but it’s cozy and it’s warm,” Balkman said. “It’s like a happy-feeling haunted house.”
Wake the Dead serves coffee and specialty espresso drinks, 55 imported and domestic beers, wine, and breakfast and lunch food. Balkman said one of the shop’s most popular drinks is its iced toddy—coffee steeped without heat for 24 hours, resulting in a smoother finish and stronger brew.
The red- and black-striped coffeehouse also serves as a gallery for local artists, a live music venue and an overall community gathering space.
“I wanted this to be a place for the people and even a place for my friends—I have friends that work here,” said Balkman, who has lived in San Marcos for more than 30 years. “I also wanted it to be a place for my family—my family does my bookkeeping. I know a lot of artists, and I wanted them to have a place to show their art. I know a lot of musicians, and I wanted a place for them to do their music. I just wanted it to be a place where everybody could have a part of it.”
Wake the Dead hosts a roster of ongoing events including movie night, open-mic poetry, Drug Addicts Anonymous meetings and more.
“I’m so happy I have a venue and that people take advantage of it to show their art, play their music and have their community events here,” Balkman said. “I just feel like it’s a place that anybody in the community can do anything. Wake the Dead has become like a community place, and that’s what I wished for it to be.”
Wake the Dead Coffee House
1432 RR 12, San Marcos
Hours: 7 a.m.-midnight daily