83° F Wednesday, March 22, 2017

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Photo by Dane Anderson

From left, Westlake High School graduates  Ben Cohen and Allison Parnell and Adam Ruma gather and take care of business at Trianon.

The coffee is flowing at Trianon. Sun streams through the glass windows that encase the place as small groups of people make their ways to tables, engrossed in conversations. The back room is filling with writers setting up for a weekly meeting.

There is an energy to the coffee shop – familiar, comforting and welcoming. Even for those who visit the place for the first time, it feels like home.

For 28 years, Trianon has been a mainstay in Westlake, a respite from the busy day, an office for the self-employed, a gathering place. As other popular places have come and gone, it has remained, a haven of familiar faces and a family of baristas that smile when they see you coming.

Customer Bob Rogin has been watching Trianon evolve from the beginning. A marketing consultant, he is an almost daily figure at the shop.

“I like the baristas – that’s a big part of it,” he said. “I know so many people here. I go to their parties. I know their histories. We’re connected.”

Comments like that bring a smile to the face of Trianon owner Robert Rabb.

“The people who work here make the people who come here feel like family,” Rabb said. “They see someone getting out of the car, and they already have his favorite cup of coffee going by the time he hits the door.”

Rabb bought Trianon two years ago. His son, Josh, heard that owner Rob Case was interested in selling, so Rabb and his wife came down from Commerce, Texas to give the place a look. They spent the weekend as customers and left as owners.

“We knew there was something special here and that there were a lot of people interested in buying it, so we just took a leap of faith and jumped in,” Rabb said.

The Rabbs run Trianon as a family business. Josh and his wife, Korey, work there. Younger brother Eli, a student in Santa Monica, does market research and comes to Austin to work during his breaks.

They may not have realized it at first, but the Rabbs have joined a short line of families that have created and are still creating a piece of Westlake history.

Westbank residents Norma and Edmond Bazerghi opened Trianon in 1985. Edmond is a psychologist; Norma is an intensive care nurse. They raised two daughters in the local Eanes school system; both worked in the shop. The Bazerghis opened the coffee place as a retirement business, something the family could run together.

Edmond had a rich history steeped in coffee. He was born in Cairo, not far from Ethiopia, the birthplace of the ancient drink. Legend has it that a ninth-century goat herder invented coffee using beans he discovered while searching for his goats. By the 13th century, the addictive drink had spread to Egypt. Raised in a culture that placed high value on slow-roasted coffee, Edmund helped introduce the concept of designer coffee to Austin in a time when latté, espresso and cappuccino were strange and foreign words.

The psychologist-turned-coffee man built a state-of-the-art roaster where the meeting room now stands. Before light, he would come in each morning and roast his beans. For years, most people in the surrounding neighborhoods woke to the rich aroma of those roasting beans. Early risers began coming in, sitting on bags of beans and talking to Edmond while he worked.

“I used to tease him about painting a sign that said – ‘The doctor is in,’ ” Norma said.

For 20 years, the Bazerghis worked side by side at Trianon. They began introducing customers to each other.

“Before long, everybody knew everybody,” Norma said. “It just worked.”

The family sold Trianon to the Scooter’s Coffeehouse chain in 2005. Scooter’s removed Edmund’s roaster and moved it to their corporate headquarters in Omaha, where it remains on display today. In 2007, Trianon returned to its family-owned roots when Westbankers Rob and Ann Marie Case bought it. An entrepreneur and longtime Trianon customer, Rob walked in for a cup of coffee before his daughter’s volleyball game and a barista asked him if he wanted to buy a coffee shop. He purchased the shop not so much as a money maker as a lifestyle.

“There are two ways to run a coffee business – to sell as much coffee as you can each day or to make it part of a neighborhood,” he said.

Case set about running Trianon the second way, determined to make it once again a neighborhood gathering place. He added a community room in the back where local groups could meet for free.

“People have three main places where they live their lives,” he said. “There’s home, and there’s work. Then there’s your third place – that place you go to a lot. That’s what we want Trianon to be, that third place.”

Case sold Trianon to Rabb in April. The new owners intend to expand their menu with homemade healthy food. And then, there is the quest for the Holy Grail.

“We serve great coffee, but our primary focus will always be on serving better coffee, extraordinary coffee,” Rabb said. “There is an art to coffee as much as a science to it. I like that one of our barista’s latté is different from another. We want consistency without limiting the talent of the barista.”

Trianon WebPhoto by Dane Anderson

Heather Oswalt, foreground,  grew up in Westlake and has been a member of a family of baristas that make Trianon customers feel special. Now a massage therapist, she continues to work at the coffee shop to keep up with people who frequent the West Woods hub.

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Comments

  1. Bob Rogin says:

    Great article, Dane!

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