Down House is the name of Charles Darwin's country estate — not the likeliest inspiration for a coffee shop.
But Chris Cusack and Joey Treadway, partners who are turning the former Heights Bank building into a coffeehouse/bar, think it fits perfectly. Down House will be on Yale at the corner of 18th Street and is set to open by the end of March.
"It's like the coffee shop, evolved," Cusack says. "But it's also vague enough that people can kind of create their own definition."
Cusack, who owns Thunderbird Coffee in Austin, plans a space that's equally focused on good coffee, good food, and a full bar with cocktails and craft beer. He says he had been looking for any opportunity to open something in the Houston Heights, where he grew up with longtime friend Treadway, but waited to find the perfect place.
"We want to make a great environment to come in the morning and drink coffee, but also to bring a date at 11:30 at night for some cocktails," Cusack says.
Justin Rayford of 34th Street Cafe in Austin is designing the locally-focused menu, which will feature the typical salads and soups, plus bar snacks and meats that are roasted and cured in-house.
The 3,000-square-foot historical building is set for a dramatic makeover by designer Joel Mozersky, esteemed for his stunning designs of El Arbol, Uchi and La Condesa in Austin as well as Benjy's on Washington and Houston club The Drake.
"We are going for a turn-of-the-century vibe, and Joel is capable of using a modern sensibility with a foot in the past," Cusack says. Jur van der Oord of Heights shop InstallationsAntiques is also contributing in the fabrication and light fixtures, creating what Cusack calls an industrial feel with a European sensibility, including 150-year-old medicine cabinets and 200-year-old Dutch ship ropes attached to an awning on the spacious patio.
"We just want to blow people's minds when they come in," Cusack says.