Around Town

Yay! Coffee shop returns to AcA

by Christiaan Mader

After a brief hiatus, the joe is back at the Acadiana Center for the arts — but at a much lower price point.

Aerin Higginbothom

Never fear, Downtown Lafayette coffee fiends, Aerin Higginbotham is here.

After a brief hiatus, coffee has returned to the front café at the AcA, this time operated by the AcA itself and serving Community Coffee.

Higginbotham, 22, is the lone soldier in the latest coffee colony to set up Downtown as the café’s manager and sole barista, and to her it’s the best spot to occupy.

“This [AcA] is a really great space. The galleries are free. It’s the best place to study. And you can be inspired by the building and Downtown itself,” she says.

After laying relatively dormant for two years, the café installation that occupies the front of the ACA’s sun flecked atrium is changing hands for the second time in a year. Since April 2014, the cozy kiosk served as an outpost for The Lab Handcrafted Coffee and Comforts, Thomas Peters’ inventive coffee and confection think tank currently nestled in the south Lafayette confines of River Ranch.

The pairing had been natural, and relatively successful, providing Peters and company the opportunity to reach a new audience in Lafayette’s Downtown business community. According to Peters, the operation provided steady cash flow for his business through sales of espresso drinks and joe but little opportunity for diehard fans to enjoy the cold sweet creams and flaky pastries that are the other side of his calling card.

“We couldn’t give the full Lab experience,” he says, “and that started to backfire to us.”

Since opening on Jefferson Street, AcA’s handsomely modern front atrium has seen partnerships with nearby French Press and Jefferson Street Pub come and go. Peters’ operation was the first to be “permanently” installed in the café kiosk, although an eventual takeover by AcA itself was always the plan. This changeover just came quicker than expected.

“We wanted to set them up in the best possible situation so they can generate income,” Peters says.

To that end, Peters hesitates to say that The Lab’s role has always been consular. And even though he’s not involved in an official capacity, he’s maintained a guiding eye on something he sees as a valuable asset to Downtown Lafayette. He was instrumental in the hire of Higginbotham, an employee he claims he would have "kept for myself" had she not applied to AcA. Former Lab Downtown manager Joseph Diaz still makes regular stops to the location to ensure everything with the transition is running smoothly.

The newly dubbed AcAfé is already in operation Monday - Thursday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., closing at 3 p.m. on Fridays. Marking the official grand opening next week, it will feature 25 percent off espresso drinks and a free coffee for email list signees.

After the official changing of the guard, coffee and espresso drinks will see a 50 cent drop in price from the previous points set by The Lab (you hear that, Trey Harper?).