'It’s a fun little thing how coffee brings people together:' Customer relationships, drive-thru pull Magnolia cafe through pandemic

The cafe offers a variety of baked goods, including chocolate chunk cookies ($2.50). (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
The cafe offers a variety of baked goods, including chocolate chunk cookies ($2.50). (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)

The cafe offers a variety of baked goods, including chocolate chunk cookies ($2.50). (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Heather Martin opened Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea in March 2020. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
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The Mocha Ice Dragon ($5-$5.50) is a blend of chocolate, espresso, whip cream and ice. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
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The egg, bacon and cheese bagel sandwich is $4.75. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic halted restaurant operations across the state, Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea opened in Magnolia, owner Heather Martin said. The cafe almost immediately switched to drive-thru orders exclusively, she said.

“That was pretty weird just not knowing what was going to happen [and] having the cafe be empty. You look[ed] outside, and there was no traffic,” she said. “It was just amazing to see the community support us; they’d come through the drive-thru and let us know, ‘Hey, we’re coming to make sure that you survive and are able to stay open.’”

Martin said the relationships built with customers during this time via the drive-thru window sustained the cafe through its first anniversary.

“A lot of those people have turned into regulars that come and see us daily, so we definitely wouldn’t have gotten through [the pandemic] without the support of the community,” Martin said. “When you talk about making or breaking it in a business, if you don’t have those people that come and support you and come by when times are hard, what else do you have?”

Sweetwaters is located in Windcrest Village on FM 1488, one of the first coffee shops to open along the booming corridor, Martin said. With Wi-Fi and seating both indoors and outdoors, Martin said the cafe has become busier now that dine-in restrictions have been lifted and residents are needing an alternate spot to work remotely.


Sweetwaters offers globally inspired coffees, teas and frozen drinks made from natural ingredients—such as lemons and strawberries instead of the powdered form—as well as a cafe menu of pastries, desserts, parfaits, breakfast sandwiches and pretzel sandwiches, Martin said.

“It’s a fun little thing how coffee brings people together,” Martin said. “It’s just a drink, but it’s such a game-changer for relationships.”

Artwork from local artists is displayed along the cafe’s wall, and the cafe participates in spirit days raising funds for schools and local athletics, she said. Prior to COVID-19 restrictions, the cafe had planned to add music nights, which have since been put on hold, she said.

Prior to the pandemic, Martin said she and her husband, Arron, sought to bring the cafe to the FM 1488 corridor after Martin left a job of 15 years to spend more time with her 8-year-old son.

“I felt like I wasn’t getting really to hang out, do the family stuff,” she said. “We chose Magnolia because it’s close to home, and we really wanted to be involved in the community [and] wanted to be somewhere where we could support the community where our son is going to be growing up and spending time. We found this location and took a chance.”

Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea

9511 FM 1488, Ste. 100, Magnolia

832-934-4737

www.facebook.com/swwindcrestvillage

Hours: Mon.-Fri. 6 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
By Anna Lotz

Editor, Tomball/Magnolia & Conroe/Montgomery

Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor for the Tomball/Magnolia edition. She began covering the communities of Conroe and Montgomery as well in 2020. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.