In another sign that Rice Village is growing into one of Houston's most pedestrian friendly areas, it now has a gourmet grocer and coffee purveyor.
That would be newly-opened Mercantile, where operating partner Max Gonzalez brings the experiences and relationships he's built during his six-plus years of owning Catalina Coffee to a venture that's poised to be a go-to destination for residents of the newly opened Hanover complex, Rice students and pretty much anyone else in the area who wants properly poured espresso.
"We saw an opportunity for density (and went for it)," Gonzalez tells CultureMap. "We secured this place in January or February, but I've been real quiet about it. Even my staff at Catalina didn't know what it is."
Gonzalez says he's "not accustomed to" operating a space that doesn't offer any seating, but he's embracing the challenge. He describes Mercantile's sourcing philosophy as "if we can get high quality locally, we'll do it." If not, he'll sell products from other producers that people can't typically find in Houston.
As an example, beans from Chicago's Intelligentsia sit on a shelf next to Gonzalez's Amaya Roasting. In a refrigerated case, familiar products from the Houston Dairymaids sit next to local essentials like Topo Chico and Mexican Coke. Gonzalez is particularly excited about selling Tavola pasta. The locally-made product will be selling its first ever fresh pastas at Mercantile, along with a special coffee pasta and Texas pesto that's made with pecans instead of pine nuts.
In addition to a gleaming espresso machine, Gonzalez expresses enthusiasm about possessing Houston's first Gold Cup Brewer that Mercantile will utilize instead of serving drip coffee. "It's incredibly cool . . . essentially a pour over machine."
Once it receives a license, Mercantile will sell beer and wine and extend its hours to serve the crowds that pack the area's bars every weekend. For now, it's open every day from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
If the concept proves successful, Gonzalez expects to take it to other neighbors, including the Heights. For now, the shop is already developing regulars. Once the word spreads, that number should grow rapidly. Follow the shop on Twitter to stay current.