After Starbucks closed its doors in The Heights, Lou Anne and Eric Herget decided they could fill the coffee-shaped void in their neighborhood by opening up a dream concept of Eric's — a coffee shop by day and speakeasy by night. The catch? Eric wanted to open in just two weeks. The result is a cozy, spacious hangout with drinks and eats and an emphasis on all things local.
The neighborhood hangout is the newest addition to Lou Anne and Eric's business repertoire, including Heights Corner Market and The Green Room. Walter's Coffee & Speakeasy opened without fanfare on Dec. 15, and has steadily gained patrons as word of mouth gets around.
"We also use [the space] as kind of overflow from the restaurant," Lou Anne says. "If you’re waiting for a table you can come in here first. Or you can come in here after dinner for after-dinner drinks."
The coffee shop is open from 6:30-11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and serves West Rock coffee and small breakfast bites like muffins and scones. Teas are also available, along with cappuccinos, lattes and other coffee-shop staples. The speakeasy is open from 4:30-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday with a variety of martinis (cranberry, espresso and chocolate, to name a few), beer and wine, along with appetizers like truffle fries, a Reuben spring plate and a charcuterie board.
Lou Anne and Eric put a strong emphasis on local ingredients throughout their businesses. From produce and meat to beer and coffee, they try and buy local whenever they can. In The Green Room, the menu is determined by what’s local and fresh in the market. Lou Anne is always pushing Arkansas.
Walter's coziness is due in large part to Lou Anne's knack for interior design. A licensed interior designer by trade, she started with an all-white color scheme but quickly decided it was too stark. They added brick wallpaper, painted some of the walls a dark green and went bargain hunting for odds and ends to fill the space.
"It just made it more homey," she says. "It’s just a good place to hang out with friends. A lot of the stuff in here has meaning. We have family photographs around."
When it comes to the future of Walter's, Lou Anne says they're thinking on whether or not to offer a full breakfast menu during the coffee shop hours. They've already done a tap takeover with Lost Forty and have plans to do more in the coming months. And on the weekends, you'll find a variety of live music from local musicians.
"I think our goal for the future is probably some more specialized events and appetizers," Lou Anne says. "And we’ll be kind of just doing fun events, things like that. Themed parties. We had people here on New Year's Eve. We were actually kicking 'em out at like 1 a.m."
And suddenly we're wondering how The Heights has gone this long without a coffee-shop-slash-speakeasy.