The Story of Lamppost Coffee
As a young teenager of 13, Brian Burns recalls the intense heat of Round Rock in summer. He and his friends had been biking their hometown when they spotted a coffee shop: Saradora’s. It had sleek floors, marble accents, and cool air-conditioning, so they went in. What initially started as a desperate stop for ice water and A/C became an hours-long checkers session. Sara, the owner, even eventually convinced Brian and his friends to try Italian sodas (a menu item Brian would later come to feature in his own shop). Dazzled and inspired by the shop’s atmosphere and Sara’s kindness, Brian told her, “I love this place. I’m gonna start a coffee shop someday.”
Flash forward and I’m sitting across the table from a grown Brian in his flagship store right next to a large canvas print of a regal lion. The print is black and whtie but the location is colorful, accents of red inviting people towards the bar or the comfortable couch in the corner. The smell of espresso wafts of community and chocolate bitters. Customers mill about and enjoy their drinks while the soft hum of conversation serves as white noise to our own discussion. An owner now, Brian is deeply plugged into his community, both staff and guests.
He proudly tells me when he first opened this store Sara stopped in and, after hearing that origin story, offered him her original shop sign. It still hangs in the back room at the original Round Rock location, a testament to the place that first inspired Brian.
But, it was a challenging road to get to this moment.
After graduating high school, Brian worked long shifts in a warehouse, quickly learning the appeal of a solid cup of coffee on early mornings. He then spent some time working in a second-wave coffee job, learning what he could.
The dream persisted and, a year and a half later, some friends gave Brian a jumpstart: a loan to open Brian’s Brew. He purchased used equipment and opened a kiosk, pushing himself to learn the science of espresso. His go-to drink was a cortado with 3 raw sugars. One of his regulars began ordering the same “and a slap in the face!” Years later, that drink is actually on the menu; it's even called a ‘Slap in the Face.’ Raw sugar has been replaced with Brian’s secret recipe house syrup, Lamba, but the concept is the same. A unique homage to his early beginnings.
Brian’s taste for espresso grew and matured during his time at Brian’s Brew, and he began sampling espresso from shops all around Austin. One year turned into five, and a regular took notice of Brian’s passion for coffee and ease with people. He wanted to help with expansion, and Brian agreed.
In 2014, Brian found a brick and mortar location and began the process of building. On July 14th 2015, he opened the Round Rock location and changed the business name to Lamppost Coffee. His dream had become a reality. However, the first 3 years were difficult, as Brian had expected. He’s open about the challenges and uncertainty he faced. The strain of that buildout lingered until a friend, Michael Woolstrum, stepped in to help Lamppost out, buying into the business and the vision Brian had for his shop.
The dream persisted.
Jumping to current day, hearing the story firsthand is thrilling. It’s clear Brian is grateful for the success and support he’s had. The early years of constant anxiety about his dream failing was hard to overcome. Eventually, the day-to-day stress got easier, but he is thankful to not be in a place of constant worry anymore. The business weathered the pandemic and even expanded. Three new locations were added, with a fourth on the way this weekend, flown under the same flag:
Love coffee, love people.
“I want Lamppost to be known for [those] two things.” Brian recounts how the tale of The Chronicles of Narnia had a huge influence in his life, with the images of the lion (hence, the canvas print in each store) and lamppost taking forefront. In those stories, the lamppost serves as a representation of a guiding light, an illuminating marker for the way home.
Brian’s biggest hope for the future of Lamppost is excellence in coffee and excellence in community. He wants that sense of home to continue and is proud that Lamppost has carried that even after six years. People who would otherwise never have met are sitting down and having conversations. Marriages have formed through Lamppost. Children have been born. The sense of community is strong here.
As a wrap up, I had one last major, pressing question for Brian: his favorite film. For anyone with the same burning curiosity, it is Arrival (2016). The film, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, centers around a near-future humanity interacting with a bizarre alien ship and the beings inside. Its themes center around decency of spirit, hope for humanity’s future...and linguistics. At least, that is what Brian took from the film: language has a significant impact on the way we think, and the way we relate to each other.
The story of Lamppost itself is a testament for the way language and naming extends our means of relationship. It started as a dream of a teenage boy impacted by a stranger’s kindness and continues today as a beacon of home for strangers to connect.
As always, much thanks for reading and for your support.
The Post xx