At I Love U A-Latte in north Richardson, ideas are flowing, coffee is brewing and time is lasting – long enough to create something out of the ordinary. It’s almost as if this Richardson coffee shop, family owned and operated, emerged just for writers like student Chelsea Barnard.
Walking in for the first time, Chelsea caught a whiff of creativity, and thought to herself, “Here’s a quirky little coffee shop that I could see myself losing track of time in.” And she did, in a matter of weeks, with a group of writers involved in the University of Texas at Dallas’s (UTD) literary club, Reunion: The Dallas Review.
As editor-in-chief of Reunion, Chelsea had been searching for a place nearby to showcase their literary journals and to allow writers the chance to explore new styles. She wanted to establish their first “LitXPro Little Library” – a bookshelf exhibiting literary journals – in a coffee shop because it ideally fit the writing and reading vibe she was going for.
“We have some incredible writers and artists in our programs and want to foster that creativity,” she says, and a space like I Love U A-Latte can help with that. Its proximity to campus proved to be another asset to the writers, and in April, a partnership effortlessly formed between the two. Now, customers at the shop can go through a portal with every journal they find and enter the world of literature any time they desire.
The coffee shop officially opened in December, and is instantly soothing with instrumental music playing in the background, a colorful choice of furniture and lattes offered in the dreamiest of flavors. There’s even a red-orange couch that takes us back to our most beloved comedy show of the nineties, “Friends.”
“When we were building [the shop], we wanted it to be like Central Perk from ‘Friends,’” says Mike Abuwardeh, one of the five owners. Even though it’s unlikely we’ll run into Joey or Rachel (you never know), we can still feel a trace of familiarity and nostalgia for our favorite characters. I Love U A-Latte has captured both the calm and the commotion of a New York City café, but to our favor, mostly the calm.
Mike and his family moved from California with a plan to open up a business – a restaurant. But once Mike’s sister, Hana Abuwardeh, came across the Richardson location conveniently minutes away from campus, Mike’s family decided they would create a cozy coffee shop for everyone – especially the students at UTD.
Before the coffee shop, Mike’s family had never done anything like this. In fact, their careers ranged from a masters psychology student to a banqueting manager and a cosmetologist. Mike himself used to work as a personal trainer. “When you put them all together, you get this,” Mike says, laughing and gesturing to I Love U A-Latte. He says they all added their own touch to the shop – something creative they could collectively and individually enjoy.
Building the shop on their own was no easy feat. They chose not to use contractors, but to learn along the way, experiencing everything for the first time. “It was a very dirty job,” Mike admits – one that included expanding the kitchen, building a new bathroom and breaking down the walls to build new walls. The hardest part? “Everything was hard,” Mike says, laughing, but maybe not as hard as the plumbing and getting permits.
Since its completion, they’ve been discussing developing the bakery and possibly opening up another location. But they’re not there just yet, says Mike.
The coffee shop offers cookies, protein waffles, smoothies, Italian soda and other drinks and desserts, but “we are I Love U A-Latte – lattes are our thing,” Mike reminds everyone. He even has his own signature drink that’s not on the menu. “I’ve gotten a lot of customers hooked on it. It’s called White Chocolate Roasted Hazelnut,” he says – and it’s magical.
The vanilla latte is standard and a top seller, but where they really stand out is with their lavender lattes. They’re known for mixing lavender with other flavors well. For example, the Purple Hazel Latte combines lavender and hazelnut, and Purpanilla Latte is lavender and vanilla. There’s also the Lavender Almond Latte – Chelsea’s drink of choice. And the Cinamilla Latte was something Mike made by accident one day – it’s cinnamon and vanilla. Rose is also a flavor available, and when vanilla is added, it transforms into the Crimson Cream Latte.
Espresso drinks aside, I Love U A-Latte is open to hosting all sorts of events like poetry readings and music nights, and – of course –Reunion comes in once a week for their literary club meetings.
This coffee shop embraces a community of creative thinkers – encouraging literary- and latte-love. Take some time to visit I Love U A-Latte and feel the inspiration yourself.I Love U A-Latte >