Local Coffee & Doughnut Shop in the Heights Sets a Closing Date
Morningstar, the independent shop at 4721 North Main founded by Greenway Coffee co-owners David Buehrer and Ecky Prabanto, along with Sam Phan, Buehrer’s former boss and mentor in crafting doughnuts, is closing permanently. On social media, it announced its last day of operation would be Monday, December 28. It opened in in the Heights in May 2016 to immediate acclaim and was a trusted stop for not only the coffee and doughnuts, but also matcha tea drinks, crispy rice bowls, morning breakfast plates and the kolache made with Feges BBQ.
Morningstar Fam – it has been our pleasure to serve Houston for the past 5 years and we have some amazing memories that…
The scratch-made doughnuts were different from most shops. From the start the owners opted to create theirs from, as Buehrer called them, more wholesome ingredients. They eschewed hydrogenated vegetable shortening, used unbleached sugar and unbromated and unbleached wheat flour. While the doughnuts found favor with many (the matcha-iced and Cop Donut, dusted with cinnamon and sugar, were particularly popular), some didn’t appreciate that the trade-off in better ingredients meant a more dense texture than the airy doughnuts made by chains. Yet, there were plenty of fans, and the doughnuts made appearances in the pastry cases of other shops, such as Blacksmith — another project by the Greenway Coffee team that remains open in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood.
Buehrer says that closing Morningstar is a final decision. “At some point, you’ve got to let go and focus on what’s working,” he said. Prabanto agreed, saying, “We now can focus more on the ones that are still open. It’s sad but I’ll be okay.”
“Lesson learned. We’re going to focus on Blacksmith and hopefully office life will return at some point in 2021,” said Buehrer. The original Greenway Coffee is in the food court of 3 Greenway Plaza. While it, like other office-focused food and drink vendors, has been negatively impacted by more people working from home, its online coffee bean, coffee subscription and merchandise store is one way that customers have continued to support the business.
This is the second blow to come to Greenway Coffee’s founders in the past few weeks. On Saturday, November 14, Rice Village food hall Politan Row closed. It was the site of Susu Kopi & Boba, a stand serving both boba tea and ice cream highlighting Indonesian flavors, and founded by Prabanto, Buehrer and Prabanto’s sister, Niken, under a new company name called Thoughtful Endeavors. Tropicales, the all-day Latin-style cafe in the Museum District, closed in mid-March. Although the website says it’s “closed until further notice,” CultureMap Houston reported in June that it would not be reopening. All of this exemplifies how serious the COVID-19 economic repercussions are for small business owners, who still have yet to receive a comprehensive aid package from Congress.
In the meantime, their downtown coffee shop in the Hines Tower at 609 Main, Prelude Coffee and Tea is temporarily shuttered — again, because people aren’t going to the office like usual, opting instead to work from home. “There’s just no point in it being open right now,” said Buehrer.
At this point, those who want to support the Houston-grown business can visit the original coffee bar in the Greenway Plaza (park in the underground garage and get your parking validated; it’s free up to two hours), Inversion Coffee, Blacksmith (which is also co-owned by Underbelly Hospitality) and the combination gamer spot and café Coral Sword at 1318 Telephone on the east side of Houston. Those not wishing to venture out can visit the online store.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.