Opened in April 2008, The Village Cafe is owned and operated by Kristy Petty, Class of 1998, and also serves as the home of the Art979 Gallery, which celebrates local artists.
Petty worked her early years in restaurants and following graduation from A&M, she started a career in advertising. She said balancing work life and being an involved mother motivated her to open the cafe.
“When I was a single mom, I didn’t like working for other people. I didn’t want anyone to tell me I couldn’t go to my kid’s field trip,” Petty said. “As I was trying to think of something that gave me the freedom, what [stood out to me] more than anything was the hospitality industry.”
In addition to the freedom of being a business owner, Petty said entrepreneurship has positively impacted her motherhood.
“I don’t regret for a moment being able to be my own boss,” Petty said. “Being a strong working mom has [made me] a really good role model for [my son] to understand the balance between being an active parent and having an active business life.”
Having closed for five months last year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Petty said she learned what she values most during the temporary shutdown.
“It really showed me how much I love waking up in the morning and getting to come here and sit and have coffee,” Petty said. “I live here everyday, and it’s a very nice place to live.”
The enjoyable downtown community is also important to the cafe’s other staff, such as psychology senior and Village Cafe employee Karina Robles.
“[I love] the sense of community,” Robles said. “Bryan is a little bit slower pace than College Station, [and] everything’s more relaxed. It’s so cool to see someone every day, the people who get their coffee here exclusively.”
Despite the challenges of running a business, Petty said the good far outweighs the bad.
“Being an entrepreneur, even with all the weight that’s put on you with it, there’s a freedom to be able to live your life,” Petty said. “It just takes a lot of self-discipline to get up when you don’t want to.”
Village Cafe employee Marina Munoz said customers are the highlight of this job.
“There’s a lot of regulars that come in, and it’s really nice to have relationships with the locals,” Munoz said. “It’s nice to meet people and have a community of the workers and customers as well.”
The Art979 Gallery attached to the cafe is curated by Petty and frequently changes as she said loves featuring a variety of art.
“I’ve had over 150 shows now at the cafe,” Petty said. “I [have changed] it out every single month for 12 plus years now, and sometimes, there’ll be 15-20 artists in a show. There have been hundreds of artists that have hung their art here over the years.”
Petty’s art commitment is partially in tandem with Downtown Bryan. She said the cafe’s outdoor space is used to host local artists during the monthly First Friday event.
“Last First Friday, we had 12 artists at ‘Live Art at The Village on First Friday,’” Petty said. “I’m excited about that because I really want the cafe to have that art base.”
She was also excited to announce a new addition, as she acquired the building next door and is planning to open a new wine bar in June 2021 that celebrates art and the Bohemian lifestyle.
“I’m going to call it ‘Vino Boheme,’” Petty said. “The Village is about community and supporting local art. The wine bar is going to be a celebration of art and the counterculture artists that have led us to where we are today. For me, it’s The Village by night.”
Petty looks forward to the future and wants her cafe to remain a part of the Downtown Bryan community, as she sees it as more than a business.
“[It’s] more than just a restaurant, and we don’t want it to go away,” Petty said. “It’s an important part of Downtown Bryan and an important part of the arts scene in this area. I’ve been supported like crazy by the community and people who’ve wanted me to stay in business.”