Coffee and Comics: Freshly Brewed Expansion Brings New Café Venture

By Linda Baier

Sometimes things don’t seem to make sense, but they work. For instance, having breakfast for dinner, wearing leather and lace, indulging in chocolate-covered potato chips, and enjoying comics and coffee.

It appears as an unconventional combination, but for Marty and Jade Burnham, it feels like the perfect fusion. That’s why in mid July of this year, they launched a coffee shop right next to their already established comic book shop — Hot off the Press Comics and Coffee in downtown Austin. So far, their business has been consistent, and the city of Austin has shown them positive support.

The couple met and got married in Chicago, and their life was extremely busy. Although they lived in the suburbs, they worked in the city. Juggling opposite shifts and raising their son meant early mornings, late nights, relying on daycare, and taking plenty of train rides.

Jade mentioned that they soon realized, while trying to raise their child, the importance of having family and friends around. As a result, they moved to Rochester to be closer to them, but eventually discovered that Austin was a much more affordable place to reside. They were drawn to the community and decided to purchase a home here and enroll their son in the local school system.

“We don’t live very far from Bandshell Park, and witnessing the vibrant events that take place there truly gives us a strong sense of community,” Marty remarked. “We fell in love with Austin.”

After nourishing their dream of owning a business for 20 years, one that combines both of their passions — his love for comics and her appreciation for a superb cup of coffee — they finally began searching for retail space. It took some time, but they eventually found what seemed to be the ideal location at the corner of Main Street and 1st Drive Northwest.

The Wagner Building, dating back to 1928, has housed numerous businesses over the years. Today, it stands as a solid foundation for Marty and Jade to grow their unique venture.

Despite the presence of several franchise and local coffee shops in town, Jade explained, “there’s plenty of room for all of us. We offer distinct items that cannot be found at other establishments. Our menu includes a wide range of vegan and gluten-free options. Additionally, we are the sole place in town that serves lotus plant energy, a gluten-free and vegan-friendly energy drink.”

She also noted that by operating on specific days of the week and business hours, they are targeting times when other similar businesses are not open.

Their menu spans a vast selection. Currently, they offer five different drip coffees, each made with a special blend of roasted beans that is exclusive to their shop. The Daily offers a light roast, the Hawkeye features a medium roast, the Dark Knight boasts a dark roast, the Sleeper is a decaf option, and lastly, the Iceman is a cold brew.

When it comes to the espresso/latte section of the menu, the choices are nearly endless, comprising of around 30 options or more. For instance, the Swamp Thing combines caramel and vanilla syrup with caramel sauce on top, the Black Widow is a latte with a chocolate-covered cherry twist, the Hulk delights with pistachio flavoring, and the Archie incorporates butterscotch syrup, caramel sauce, and a sprinkle of cinnamon spice.

Lotus energy drinks are plant-based and contain caffeine. They are derived from cascara (the coffee fruit), green coffee beans, and green tea. The sugar used is pure cane sugar and is both vegan and gluten-free. Hot off the Press Coffee can customize the caffeine levels in each drink to suit individual preferences. Currently, the menu features 43 different drink options, which all begin with six distinct base flavors that serve as a foundation for further customization.

  • White Lotus (no super fruits included)
  • Gold Lotus (utilizes gold geisha coffee with sour cherry)
  • Blue Lotus (blueberry and acai)
  • Pink Lotus (sour cherry and raspberry)
  • Purple Lotus (Elderberry and black raspberry)
  • Red Lotus (Red raspberry, black raspberry, and sour cherry)

Due to Jade's fascination with history, some "mock tails" have been included on the Mildred Menu. Mildred's used to be one of the first businesses in this area, where women's clothing was sold during the 1930s and 1940s. The menu features common female names from that era, and to make sure the men are not left out, the more masculine-named drinks are streets that were named before Austin adopted the numbering system. A sample of this menu includes:

  • Mary - A non-alcoholic version of a mint mojito.
  • Sandra - Hibiscus tea, strawberry, and kiwi
  • Sullivan - Butterscotch, Milk, and Cream

In the summer, Marty and Jade also offer freshly squeezed lemonade and limeade. Jade is currently working on perfecting a homemade hot apple cider for the fall and winter seasons. Beverages from Hot off the Press are not exclusive to adults, as parents often bring their children along and the kids also enjoy having something to drink.

Jade has created 20 different types of kid-friendly lattes, and any of the lotus drink flavors can be made without caffeine. Some of the choices include the "Lil" Venom, which consists of steamed milk with chocolate, and the Bucky, made with steamed milk and caramel.

Let's not forget about the canine visitors who can enjoy a puppachino, which is whipped cream, also known as the Krypto at Hot off the Press Comics and Coffee. The beverages on the menu are named after comic book heroes and characters, further connecting the two businesses together.

"It wasn't particularly challenging," Marty explained. "It was actually a fun activity that we could do with our son and allow him to have some influence over the menu."

Jade also emphasizes that comics and coffee complement each other quite well.

"Because it brings us back to that sense of community that we strive for," she mentioned. "We want to provide people with a space where they can enjoy two hobbies simultaneously, sit down, and engage in conversations with others about what they have been reading or what they look forward to reading. These two things blend nicely together, creating a community space for people to connect."

The coffee shop has become a meeting place for friends or even a date, offering a cozy and serene ambiance that allows for conversation in a space other than a bar.

They also have Pocket Latte (coffee you can eat), Stroopwafels (traditional Dutch cookies), a variety of delicious pastries from Reisman's Bakery based in New York, and their own ground coffee for you to brew at home. In the future, the couple plans to offer their own freshly baked goods as well.

Hot off the Press Comics and Coffee is located at 508 1st Dr. NW, Austin. They are open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and from noon to 3 p.m. on Sundays, you can visit this establishment. Explore their assortment of offerings on their website or contact them at 1-507-606-8459.

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