DALLAS — On Tuesday, Amanda Warren celebrated the third anniversary of the realization of a lifetime dream of owning her own coffee house where friends could gather and chat over a cup of homemade joe.
Warren is now the sole proprietor of Karma Coffee Bar and Bakery, 1062 Main St. in Dallas, after buying out her mother, Julie Hertel, letting her return to retirement.
Warren admits while it was her lifelong dream, it was her mother who came out of retirement with a plan to help her realize that goal.
When she Warren was six, her stepmother worked at Madam Matilda’s in Baker City (now Mad Matilda’s Coffee House), that she considered really cute and that set her dream in motion.
“That’s what kind of inspired me to open one, because they just treated everybody like family there and everybody was always so happy in the lobby and enjoyed eating there,” Warren said. “When I was six, they’d set me up in front of the TV and I’d just kinda hang out. That’s where my excitement for coffee came from.”
It wasn’t until her college years that Warren had her first jobs as a barista, both at the popular Dutch Bros and Starbucks in La Grande. She wanted to learn the different sides of the two successful chains, “because I figured they’re both really busy, so they must be doing something right. I took what I could from both, so I could run this place better.”
Warren’s first vision was opening her own franchise of one of the two businesses. But when she left her coffee job, it was on less than ideal terms that left her soured on pursuing her own franchise.
When she told her mom this, Hertel said, “Well I think you should just open one.”
“Mom, you’re nuts. What are you talking about?” Warren recalled asking.
“You don’t have to work for a corporation or franchise, just open something and make it yours,” was her mom’s reply.
Three months later, when Warren came to Dallas to visit her mom, Hertel pulled out a binder with a detailed business plan.
“We can do this. We can totally make this happen,” she enthused.
Warren, a senior in college at the time, recalled thinking, “Well, I’ve got nothing else going on, so I might as well give it a shot.”
They found and renovated a small home into a retail space a block off the beaten path of Washington Street. Then they went with a nearby coffee brewer, Allen Brothers Coffee out of Albany.
“I love it. I just picked it because it tastes good to me and crossed my fingers that people had similar flavor profile,” Warren said. “I get a lot of comments on our coffee, and I sell a lot of home coffee so that’s a good sign. They seem to like it.”
Finally, they needed to develop a home-baked goods menu, which Hertel would develop. But that came with one challenge.
“My mom has no formal bakery training. Fun fact about her. She just likes to be good at stuff,” Warren said.
So, she dove into Pinterest, reading books and asking friends who are good bakers for recipes. Their Texas sheetcake was her grandma’s. The scones recipe was generously donated by the owner of Madam Matilda’s, who inspired Warren in the first place.
“So that was pretty cool. It’s just a compilation of people who care and want this place to be awesome,” she said.
Warren said business was actually going well until the pandemic hit a year after opening.
“We have been really, really blessed by people that support us. When the shutdown happened, and couldn’t have the lobby open, they said, ‘we will come to your drive through. Make sure you guys stay open,’” Warren said. “We prayed a lot it would work out. We worked through it.”
She and her mom powered through the shutdowns, at times the only employees. Luckily, they had a to-go business model designed to succeed during no-contact restrictions.
“It has been tough. It has not been fun at times,” Warren admitted. “I just feel really blessed for the people in this community for accepting us with open arms because neither one of us is from here.
“There were times it felt really lonely. Having people inside just makes it a coffee shop to me. It makes that happy atmosphere where people are just enjoying coffee with each other and that’s what coffee is created for, community,” Warren added. “We’re starting to get that back which is really exciting.”
To help keep the shop’s interior inviting, Warren posts works from local artists. Craig Downs, her first artist she featured and helped set up the installation system, just hung his latest paintings from his Day of the Dead series. He plans to feature his Christmas paintings in December. Warren said she’s always looking to add local artists to the rotation.
Now that her mother has returned to retirement, Warren said she’s getting used to being the “lone ranger.” While plans for expansion are not out of the question, she doesn’t want to lose what she’s created here at Karma Coffee.
“Last night, I was sitting in the back and some of the girls came in because we were painting and they just sat here and talked with us for a half hour,” Warren recalled. “And that’s what I wanted to have, a family where they feel like they’re welcome and accepted. I always wake up and feel grateful that I get to live this life because it could have gone the opposite way, too.”