There’s a new player in the DFW coffee scene, and it’s been in hibernation since November 2018. Bear Cave Coffee, Mesquite’s newest independent coffee shop, is run by husband and wife Sean and Hillary Belknap.
“My wife and I got married almost six years ago and honeymooned in Wyoming. I wanted to open up a coffee shop and didn’t really know what it would be called, but once we got back from Wyoming, I thought, ‘What about this?’” Sean Belknap says. “It came from our love for bears, and there’s not really a mountain vibe in Texas and I wanted to bring that down here because it’s so different.”
According to Belknap, he and his wife have friends who are baristas and own other coffee shops in Michigan and Arkansas. From their friends’ experience and training, they began doing pop-ups in the Mesquite downtown square during the city’s winter events.
"I started doing pop-ups at the end of November — Nov. 16 was the first. We did Small Business Saturday, because they did a huge small business event down here. We had a cart then that was collapsible … a true pop-up,” Sean says. “In December, we started to do some holiday dates … and holiday drinks.”
Co-owner Sean Belknap
Belknap initially tabled the coffee shop idea, as he and his wife were busy with their careers and the birth of their son. Belknap was a youth pastor and now works in bookkeeping when not at the shop, and Hillary is a professional photographer.
“My dad had saw online about the revitalization of Mesquite’s downtown. The Corner Theatre wanted to get away from … food service. They wanted it to be a space for someone else, so it’s been a great partnership,” Sean says. “We rent the front space from Corner Theatre, and if they don’t have events going on, then they let us use the back auditorium space.”
Bear Cave Coffee hosts a number of events each month, ranging from open mic night to trivia night, which draws a big crowd, Sean says.
As for their coffee, they source beans from Porch Culture Coffee Roasters, a small craft roastery in Tyler, and maintain a small menu of specialty drinks named after bears, like The Baloo, a blueberry chai latte. For Sean Belknap, though, coffee is always about the next step.
“You’re always learning about coffee, always learning,” he says. “For me, it’s trying to get that craft down of not being 'Let me hurry up and make it so you can get out of here' but ‘Let me make you a good cup,’ because if I go to a place, I want to remember that cup of coffee. Trying to create that quality over quantity, or quality over speed, was key for me.”
Also on their menu is a rotating pastry du jour, courtesy of Sean’s mother, who bakes new pastries every day for the shop.
“We never really know what she’s going to make,” Belknap said. “We’re going to add some prepackaged food options like oatmeal and Clif Bars. In the next couple of weeks, we’re going to add a fridge out here that has Topo Chico and little juice boxes for kids and stuff like that.”
In keeping with their mission to help build community, Sean and Hillary are planning to expand the space out of Corner Theatre within the next couple of years, moving into their own space in Mesquite’s historic downtown.
“We’ve been here all our life,” Sean Belknap says. “We wanted everyone to come here and build a community, not just one specific person.