Photo courtesy of Do Your Thing

The town's only bakery hosts a residency program for creative baristas

Emma Orlow
December 04, 2018

You might know Marfa, Texas, as the trendy road trip destination. There’s Prada Marfa, the desolate faux-store art installation. Jill Soloway’s recent adaptation of I Love Dick brought the already-bubbling-over arts community to Amazon Prime. While you may romanticize the place from afar as a West Texas utopia, the real Marfa, the one that’s home to 2,000 locals, mostly ranchers and artists, is different. There’s no mailman in the desert. The weather goes from icy to incredibly hot in a week. Airbnb is creating a housing shortage. And at the center of the full-time Marfa community is Do Your Thing Coffee.

Do Your Thing, like Marfa itself, is many things: a cafe, a gallery space, and a creative residency for artists. It was opened in 2014 by
Simone Rubi and Robert Gungor, who initially came to town to record an album. They later started designing websites and posters for other local businesses and were inspired to stay. But despite Marfa’s caffeinated creative community, speciality coffee was hard to come by. (Non-western cuisine is even more scarce.) “Everywhere I have lived, espresso has been such a part of the ritual for me,” Gungor told me. “I was like, ‘I don’t think I can live out here for a year without espresso.’ We started doing pop-ups at a bookstore, in a way to have an excuse to own an espresso machine, eventually moving to the lumberyard where we’re at now.”

But at first, they had a problem: “We couldn’t find any baristas,” Rubi said. Taking matters into their own hands, they developed a residency program where creative baristas come work for four to six weeks in exchange for room and board. “We’re one of the first specialty coffee shops in West Texas and we wanted to offer the residency to people who have that experience,” Rubi said.

Photo courtesy of Do Your Thing

At the end of the residency, the cafe hosts an event featuring the artists’ work with everyone in town. Kate Sterchi, a past resident and Austin native, was living in Copenhagen when she applied. “I wanted to spend some time in the desert. I was curious about what it was like to live in Marfa. I didn't really have expectations for the experience. I knew how to do a job that was needed, and that was a way to participate in the community and learn with the local connections and disconnections,” Sterchi said. “I became friends with super angel queens who painted rainbows on my face, drove me to Mexico, and danced with me to the Jurassic Park theme song. I really feel so crazy lucky that my time overlapped with such incredibly warm beautiful beings.”

Do Your Thing is the the only coffee shop in West Texas using their roasters: Four Barrel Coffee for espresso and De La Paz for drip/pour over/cold brew (both are from San Francisco, where the duo used to live). Drinks on the menu include mint-infused matcha drinks, spicy mochas, horchata lattes, and mesquite coffee with syrup made from foraged pods. They're also the only bakery in town, and they delight locals with rotating breads and pastries. Do Your Thing has an ever-changing toast menu that often includes tomato jams, heaps of sesame, and goat’s milk ricotta made by Marfa Maid, along with the requisite avocado. Their canvases, as they call them, are displayed on red splatterware enamel plates. They match the primary color spread throughout on Eames-style chairs, metal hair pin leg tables, and a mid-century modern rounded fireplace. Coffee is served in cherry red, Memphis-esque ceramics by Ria Leigh. The bakery area is open to customers in a way that looks like some sort of set for a ‘60s cooking show with a quippy host.

Do Your Thing also started its own sourdough-education program for the community. “It has been really rewarding. Through sourdough, we have educated a lot of folks about fermentation,” Rubi said. They also host a monthly pop-up dinner allowing locals to sample foods from around the world. Jessica Koslow of Sqirl even did a launch event for her cookbook at the cafe.

Some of the ways Rubi and Gungor are building bonds in Marfa have been more serendipitous. One night, while taking their daily “sunset walk,” Rubi and Gungor met a couple who were planting a garden in their yard. They started talking, and now the couple works with the bakery to supply them with herbs and greens. The more they can get from local suppliers, the better. “Out here, it’s really hard to get stuff like alternative milks and breads. It’s hard to get the distributors to want to deliver it all the way out here,” Rubi said.

So next time you’re in Marfa, swing by the fake Prada for a quick Instagram, but linger at Do Your Thing over a coffee and a toast to get a better sense of the place.


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