Houndstooth Coffee – Sean and Paul Henry
Paul wasn’t far into his morning espresso – the drink of choice for this tenured, coffee drinker – when older brother Sean walked outside to meet us holding an identical morning pick-me-up. They aren’t twins by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s hard to overlook the Henrys’ similarities. Sean and Paul were drinking the same drink, the same way, through virtually the same beard.
We crowded around a small outdoor table and watched North Lamar wake up as we attempted to do the same. During our time together, these equally hospitable brothers greeted every employee, nearby tenant and patron who passed with at least a good morning wave. Only a handful of passersbys weren’t addressed directly by name. It’s clear that Paul and Sean are a welcomed staple in many people’s morning routines.
“It is about having great coffee, but we really enjoy interacting with people and being part of their day,” Sean, owner of Houndstooth, says on behalf of his staff. “Sometimes the exchange can be quick, and sometimes it’s a little more extended.”
Houndstooth has a certain authenticity that coffee shops often lack – personal and close-knit but not pretentious. The brother detail might lead you to believe that Sean and Paul were in on this together from the start, but the roads to their current roles were actually very different.
Sean opened Houndstooth in 2010 after several years in the coffee industry. By that point, he had seen every angle of the coffee world, from serving some of the first cups at Thunderbird to managing Caffe Medici on West Lynn. Paul, on the other hand, was a service industry virgin until he interviewed for the barista position at Houndstooth. Paul laughed as an impressively concise and thorough timeline of his life before Houndstooth rolled right off of his tongue.
We learned that it was originally good timing and convenience that brought Paul to the coffee shop “I didn’t expect Paul to come work for me,” Sean recalls. “I never said, ‘hey brother, come work for your brother.’” Paul was interested, so the pair decided to see if it could work out.
So far, so good.
After joking that their working relationship could be compared to “The Fighter,” the brothers got serious about the perks of working with family.
We were getting lost in Henry banter when we noticed their nearly identical watches – one red, one blue. Despite the growing similarities, they had no problem identifying their differences.
“What’s going on here? A brother’s meeting?” We were very excitedly interrupted by Marc, the third Henry, who immediately noticed that Paul was wearing his socks. His face didn’t scream Henry like the other two, but his effortless charisma sure did. He took a minute to show off his “brothers tattoos” before he headed into Houndstooth for, you guessed it, his morning espresso.
Back to the elder Henrys…
Whether they realize it or not, Sean and Paul’s roles at Houndstooth are best summarized by their mutual affinity, yet differing attractions, to The West Wing. “Sean is more drawn to themes, and I’m more drawn to characters,” Paul says of their reactions to the show. The next several minutes were spent deep inside a convincing plot analysis of The West Wing, during which Paul gave full disclosure that he has watched the entire series several times.
Not remotely unlike their individual draws to that show, Sean says that he likes to create spaces for people, and Paul says his strength is filling those spaces. Sean is motivated by the way the coffee shop experience brings people who wouldn’t otherwise cross paths together and says that is a very real aspect of what they’re doing in addition to representing a product that they’re proud to serve.
“That’s why ‘The pattern of coffee and people’ is written on the wall,” Sean explains. “I just like the intersection of those two things.”
Neither brother spends much time behind the bar these days. Paul has a hand in everything from hiring to overseeing the buildout at their forthcoming second location, and Sean is in Dallas expanding the Houndstooth brand. He plans to continue creating spaces as long as they can be filled, and for now Paul is happily stewarding his brother’s vision.
Coming soon: Houndstooth downtown. The Frost Tower location is slated to open in mid-March.