Have some coffee and frozen custard, bring your laptop and stay a while.
That’s what Daniel Huang hopes his customers will do when they come to Café Dulce, 3118 Washington Rd. In fact, the two-story frozen custard/coffee shop was designed with that in mind. It has open-air seating outside upstairs plus a cozy interior space for people to enjoy conversations, students to study or people to work on the computers.
“This idea was born out of COVID when everything went under lockdown. I’m a social person and I still like to conduct meetings, but you couldn’t do it here,” said Huang, who along with his business partner and brother-in-law Bill Leisey, opened up the eatery on Oct. 31, 2022.
Café Dulce brings multiple elements together under one space.
“We have the DNA of a local coffee shop,” Huang said, referring to that feel of being a gathering place.
There may be other places to get coffee nearby, but Huang believes that coffeehouse atmosphere is one of the things that makes Café Dulce different.
Also Café Dulce has two distinct brands under one roof.
Café Dulce serves Land of a Thousand Hills coffee as well as Whit’s Frozen Custard. Both of those brands are franchises, but they are smaller and have given Huang and Leisey some free rein when it comes to creating their own business identity.
A native Midwesterner, Huang grew up on the rich and creamy frozen custard.
“I served Whit’s Frozen Custard at my wedding seven years ago,” he said.
During COVID, the Huangs returned to Asheville, N.C., where they were married to visit the Whit’s location that catered their wedding. On the visit, he discovered Whit’s was a franchise.
“I thought I would like to put a Whit’s in Augusta,” he said. “This is a great location.”
The Whit’s recipe book has loads of custard recipes. The basics that are served weekly are chocolate, vanilla and a weekly flavor.
Another area where Café Dulce has leeway is in the flavors it serves. Huang said a popular flavor in the Southeast is banana pudding, and they are thinking about experimenting with fresh in-season fruit such as strawberries and peaches.
And, Huang, said a peach frozen custard sandwich similar to the peach ice cream sandwich concept served during golf week in Augusta could show up on the menu.
Frozen custard isn’t a product that people typically consume before noon, and Huang wanted to be open more than just the afternoon and evening.
That’s where adding the Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee idea came in.
The coffee is the favorite of Huang’s wife, and it has a humanitarian focus. It’s grown by farmers in Rwanda.
“Before the Rwandan Civil War in 1994, coffee was a big thing, but after years of fighting and genocide, the industry – and trust between neighboring farmers – collapsed,” according to the Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee website.
The company’s founder, an Anglican minister who lives outside Atlanta, decided to help the Rwandan coffee growers. Since 2007, more than 10,000 farmers have been part of the initiative to cultivate the coffee and sell it worldwide, not just in U.S. coffee shops, providing the Rwandans a decent wage and better standard of living.
The company also has a “Do Good Initiative” to further impact and empower the Rwandan people. More information is available at the Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee’s website.
Now that Café Dulce has a few months under its belt, Huang and Liesey are beginning to think more about their community involvement piece – whether it’s supplying frozen custard parties to a nearby school, participating in spirit night fundraisers or whatever that might be.
Huang said they are open to suggestions and can be reached at email@example.com or on TikTok and Instagram at cafedulce_augusta.
“We are a small business and a brand new business,” he said. “If someone wants to pitch up an idea, we’re more than happy to consider it. We’re not part of a corporation that is so strict.”
Huang said they plan to get the Café Dulce brand out more in Augusta, so people shouldn’t be surprised with they show up at area farmers’ markets or food truck Friday type events.
Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org