Monday, December 16, 2013

A [Emerson] Rose Grows on 19th Street

One of the things I've discovered about many local business owners is that they rarely start out where they've ended up, i.e. their small, local shop is often a second career path. Whether they were teachers or engineers, artists or full time parents, many come to a realization that there is something else they want to be doing. Every once in a while, though, I come across someone who knew the highs and lows, the reward and the struggle, of being a small business owner and despite the hard work, realized early that it was their only path. This is the case for 23 year old Bonnie Reay, who is opened Emerson Rose on 19th St this morning.

Reay spent the first years of real adulthood in a woman's wear boutique. Her mother opened Bliss on Main in Sealy, TX in 2009. Like many kids whose parents own a business, Reay was a partner in the success of the venture. She attended markets with her mom and helped pick what the store would stock. She also spent a lot of time doing the less glamourous work of unpacking boxes, printing price tags, and steaming garments. It's not always easy and the notion of owning her own store took time to develop. 

In the meantime, Reay left Sealy for Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, where she was a Political Science major. Four years quickly passed and she was a college graduate and a law school applicant. Reay thought she found something she was passionate about and would help her forge her own path. She studied, prepped, and sat for the LSATs. Like many law school applicants, she found herself anxious as she awaited her scores, the results of which which would determine her future. 

When Reay's LSAT scores arrived they were great; exactly what she needed them to be for her choice of law schools. Unexpectedly, after the positive results she was left with a lingering anxiety which she realized wasn't about the scores themselves. Her inability to be happy about her good scores told Reay that she wasn't going to be a lawyer. She realized she was happiest when she was doing even the mundane work of running the shop with her mom at Bliss on Main. Reay realized owning a shop would be her first, and hopefully only, career.

Bonnie Reay and her family spent a lot of time in Houston when she was growing up. She has fond memories of browsing the antique and resale shops in the Heights. Back in Sealy, she had a dress-up trunk that was the envy of her school friends, packed with all kinds of dresses, costumes, and accessories collected from shops around this neighborhood. Those road trips and shopping excursions were the impetus for the choice to relocate to Houston, and open Emerson Rose, a woman's boutique based on what she knows and loves from the Sealy store, tailored to her tastes and the neighborhood she now calls home. 

Reay moved to the Heights in the early part of summer, 2013. She settled in a quaint duplex in walking distance from many of the spots she has loved on all those road trips to the neighborhood- Dacapo's and Antidote, to name a couple. With her mom's guidance, she started investigating real estate options in the neighborhood. The building which had formerly housed Harold's in the Heights was now split in to 3 spaces, with the small, center spot seemingly begging to be a boutique. For Reay, the Harold's space just felt perfect. On those early road trips to Houston, her father and uncles shopped at Harold's. She felt that clothing could and should have a home in that building again.

Emerson Rose will have a sort of "light industrial interior," which was easy for Reay to decide. "The space was its own inspiration," she says. Over it's life span, the Harold's building has seen a hodge podge of renovations and Reay wanted to "keep evidence of some of that." She didn't add a ceiling, keeping the space tall and open to pipes. She painted it white, but kept the exposed brick. Reay feels this will work well since, visually, "many clothes and textiles works well against hard materials."

Some of Reay's favorite elements of the store's interior design are the wooden planks from Wayne's Barn Wood on 11th Street used to mount the clothing rods and the mailboxes in the dressing rooms, inspired by the first one she found at August Antiques on Heights Boulevard. There are also the beautiful light fixtures, handblown in Cleveland, TX.

As at her family's store, Reay plans to stock a broad range of clothing. She says there will be something for most budgets, with blouses starting at $30. She will also stock some of those splurges you "buy once and wear for years" coming in closer to the $200 price point. The vast majority, she says, will fall in the affordable $30-60 range. 

A trio of tops from Blu Pepper brand. Middle top, which can be worn as a tunic or dress, retails for $32.95
There is also going to be a heavy emphasis on accessories. "More than what you usually see in a clothing boutique," Reay says. Emerson Rose will also stock a small collection of body care and occasional gift items.
Top left: Giving Keys necklaces, which are designed to be given as gifts. The company who makes them employs "those looking to transtition out of homelessness."
Bottom left: Super sparkly hair accessories and  agate necklace.
Right: Paper bead necklaces, made in Tibet
Reay doesn't have current "go-to" brand or designer that she heavily favors for Emerson Rose. They store won't have a "staple" line; instead the merchandise is all about diversity. And even in the lower price points, Reay wants an emphasis on well made. 
The size ranges will be based on the successes in the Sealy store- everything from XS to XL available. While she didn't have it in time for opening, Reay plans to bring in a well thought out selection of plus sizes. Denim will start at Size 24 and go up to 32. 
Left: A small collection of LBDs, great for holiday or NYE parties.
Top Right: Embelished knit dress $122
Emerson Rose is open as of today, December 16. New merchandise will continue to arrive during the Holiday shopping frenzy, and a Grand Opening is anticipated for January. 

And for those of you who love pop culture as much as I do, I asked Bonnie Reay if she intentionally named her boutique after Terri Hatcher's daughter, who was sort of famously named Emerson Rose 15 years ago? Being that she is only 23 herself, I wasn't surprised that she in fact did not name her shop after Terri Hatcher's daughter and, in fact, did not even know Hatcher had a daughter of the same name. I'm sure she probably doesn't know that Terri Hatcher was Lois Lane back when Reay was in elementary school, either. "Emerson," she explains," is a family name. I wanted to add something feminine and soft, so I chose Rose." Makes much more sense.

Emerson Rose
350 West 19th Street Suite B 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Where's Waldo's?

Here's the quick and dirty: the new Waldo's, soon to be known as Boulevard Coffee, has an expected open date of December 15.

Work is plugging along on a larger deck. The expanded outside area is intended to be dog and kid friendly. The gravel driveway and grassy area in back are being paved and may serve as a spot for entertainment in the future.

The inside has changed format as well, from the cozy rooms of an old bungalow to the more functional, HGTV favorite "open concept." The expanded kitchen will have coffee and baked goods, plus paninis and other lunch-y items.

I am excited about the new concept and can't wait to try it out. There isn't a lot in the way of easily accessible food/drink for those around this location. And we all know the Heights loves its caffeine. I look forward to the opening and hearing what you guys think!

Pooch Party

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Healthy Competition for Heights Middle Schools??

Looks like we have a little healthy competition in the Heights! A couple weeks ago I made this post about positive changes and community involvement at Hogg Middle School under the leadership of their new Principal, Dr. Mina Schnitta. 
Now an email is circulating from the new Principal at Hamilton Middle School. Wendy Hampton has taken over from retiring Principal Roger Bunnell, who spent more than a decade at the school. Ms. Hampton is enthusiastic about her new school, which is always the first thing any school needs in an Administrator. Her excitement about the school is obvious in her letter, which outlines all of the successes Hamilton has had, making it the desired middle school in the Heights. But it's not just the current state of good things going on at the school that caught my eye in this letter. There is a little bit about the future of the school that made me smile. Because I love some competitive spirit...

Hamilton Middle School on 20th (photo:
Dear Parents, 
Alexander Hamilton Middle School is a great place for students to learn! We have a long-standing history of success and most recently received two distinctions by the Texas Education Agency: Distinction in Reading/ELA and Distinction in Student Progress. Prior to the new state accountability system, AHMS remained a TEA Recognized school for six years in a row. 
As the principal of Hamilton Middle School, I am committed to ensuring that students are academically challenged and prepared for advanced high school coursework in a positive environment where they enjoy learning. 
Hamilton Middle School offers Pre-advanced Placement (PreAP) courses for both Vanguard and non-Vanguard students. We believe all students should have the opportunity to complete advanced coursework that prepares them to take up to four classes for high school credit in 8th grade. We also know that fine arts enhance student performance academically. It also gives students an outlet for their creativity. We currently have an award-winning band program, beginning to advanced art, theater arts, and choir. 
Our "FUN FLEX" program adds an additional opportunity during the school day, four days a week, for students to participate in activities, including UIL Number Sense and Calculator competition, Name that Book, Odyssey of the Mind, Speech and Debate, Tennis, Dance, Robotics, and more! If also offers a time for students to receive support academically during the school day when they are not available to stay after school. 
Keeping active and physically fit also supports adolescent development and Hamilton has a wide selection of athletic events for both boys and girls, including an indoor heated pool for our swim team! 
It is a very exciting time for parents in the Heights Community. At Hamilton Middle School we are more committed than ever to remaining the best middle school in the Greater Heights and surrounding area, a top middle school in the district, and the number one choice for students and parents. 
Our doors are always open and you are always welcome on our campus! Come see what we have to offer by attending one of our scheduled tours, or set up an appointment for a tour at your convenience. 
For more information, please visit our newly designed website and follow us on Facebook . 
Wendy Hampton, Principal

Did you see it there? The highlighted part? 

Now I am not saying this email is a direct result of the ongoing efforts at Hogg. I am pretty certain any motivated and caring school administrator wants to see good things for all public schools. I can't help but see the slightly competitive nature of that paragraph, though. And it's exciting! It can only mean good things for our neighborhood kids when our two local middle schools strive to be the best. There are no losers in this type of contest.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I45 Project Moving Again

I just received this email from Jim Weston of the I45 Coalition. If you're new to the neighborhood or haven't been following this development, PLEASE READ! 

This project WILL have a major impact on our community. Participating in these meetings is the way we can all decide of that impact with be positive or negative. It's amazing how much work our friends and neighbors have already done and how community involvement has changed the scope of the project, but there is still much work to be done. We can't let TxDot think we have become complacent, so PLEASE join me and your other neighbors for the next round of public meetings!
TxDOT is starting to roll again on the I-45 project! 

TxDOT has just scheduled the 3rd round of public meetings to be held Thursday, Nov 14 at Aldine Ninth Grade School, 10650 North Freeway & Tuesday, Nov 19 at Jeff Davis High School, 1101 Quitman. Both meetings will be open house format from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm.

As a brief recap to remind you where we are ... because it has been a while:
TxDOT wants to ‘improve’ the I-45 Corridor to alleviate current traffic and plan for future traffic.
1)      TxDOT held its 1st Public Scoping meeting in November 2011 to hear from the public on what to do in the I-45 corridor. 
After analyzing the input from the public from that meeting:

2)      TxDOT held its 2nd Public Scoping meeting in October 2012. TxDOT broke the project into 3 segments: Segment 1 (Beltway 8 to 610); Segment 2 (610 to I-10); and Segment 3 (Downtown Loop System).

Each segment had 6 Preliminary Alternatives for a total of 18 alternatives for all 3 segments.  TxDOT was to determine the 3 most popular alternatives for each segment (for a total of 9) from evaluating the responses from the public.
Supposedly, “Within 2 months following each meeting, a report from TxDOT summarizing public comments and responses will be made available to the public”.
 After the 1st Public meeting, it took 10 months for the public comments to be available. After the 2nd Public Meeting, it took TxDOT a full year to post the comments .. it just went up this week!

TxDOT has also just announced the 3rd Public Meeting  in November 2013 (mentioned above).

3) This 3rd Public Meeting – is where they will announce the 3 alternatives for each segment (for a total of 9) and we, the public, will choose the final “winner” in each segment.  So this is a VERY IMPORTANT MEETING!  The results from this meeting will determine how & where the I-45 corridor will proceed!  Please mark your calendars now & plan to attend in November!  I do not know which 3 alternatives in each segment received the most favorable input at this time.  However, within the next 30 days, the I-45 Coalition will be evaluating all comments to determine which alternatives appear to be most favored.

You can find all the details of the 1st Public Meeting & the 2nd Public Meeting on TxDOT’s website for this project

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE plan on attending either of the two upcoming meetings (they both should be identical) so you can (1) hear firsthand from TxDOT what they say are the 3 favored alternatives in each segment & (2) make an informed decision as to what you feel should be the final alternative!
If you made a comment & submitted it to TxDOT after the 2nd Public meeting, I would suggest that you check to make sure your comment is ‘on the record’, by going to TxDOT’s website & checking.  All comments are indexed, so it should be easy to find. If it is not recorded, or not accurate, please let me know.

If you are not on the I-45 Coalition email list, please add your name by going to and sign up.  You can also find us on Facebook.  Once on our list, we will notify you of any updates, meetings or changes to the project.   Also if you would like to attend our Steering Committee meetings, just let us know!

Please get involved and/or stay involved!  This is important.  These decisions will affect you, your family, your home or business & your neighborhood. If you ever use I-45 or have any concerns about what will or will not be done on I-45 ... you need to be involved!


Jim Weston
I-45 Coalition

See you then!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Learn Local and Big Changes At Hogg

Well.... this blog has had some trouble waking up from it's summer nap. I can't even say I'm ready to really get back to it but some news is too good not to share!

Hogg Middle School. Photo:
As always, people in the Heights are willing to work to make their community everything they think it can be. Schools have always been a big focus for any neighborhood and the Heights has many urban pioneers who poured a lot of heart and soul in to making Travis and Harvard elementaries outstanding public school options. Middle school, however, has been a struggle. While Hamilton has thrived, Hogg has languished. Low enrollment and administrative turn over have left parents skeptical of the school. There were parents who tried to get involved but had trouble working with the school, especially when there were 3 new Principals in 3 years prior to 2011. 

Finally, in 2011, enter Dr Mina Scnitta. In just two years, Dr Scnitta has started an amazing turn around at Hogg. In addition to the amazing work she has done with her administration, Dr Schnitta has opened the school up to the community and has welcomed their involvement. Personally, I already know families who are ready to send their Harvard/Travis/Helms students to Hogg in a few years. 

Check out this list of what Dr Schnitta and Hogg have accomplished in just two short years:

■ Hogg Middle School recently achieved authorization as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School. This makes Hogg, along with Lanier, one of only four authorized IB middle schools in HISD. (read more about IB certification for Heights schools in this THL post)
■ Hogg's enrollment has increased by 100 students over a one-year period. 
■ Applications to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) magnet program at Hogg increased by 72% for the 2012-13 school year. Students in the STEM magnet program learn hands-on by launching hot-air balloons (6th grade), creating straw rockets to learn principles of aerospace engineering (7th grade), and building mousetrap vehicles, catapults, and trebuchets (8th grade). 
■ Work will begin soon on $9 million in renovations, including brand-new science labs and major infrastructure improvements at Hogg. The work will include upgrades to the school's mechanical and electrical systems, improved interior finishes, new lighting, restroom upgrades, and more. Through bond funds, HISD is investing in the future at Hogg.
■ In addition to the general education track, Hogg offers the Pre-Advanced Placement (Pre-AP) curriculum to challenge students and prepare them for the Advanced Placement courses offered in high school. Hogg offers Pre-AP classes for each grade level in the four core subject areas: Math, Science, English Language Arts, and Social Studies. 
■ Hogg offers the following classes for high school credit: Algebra, Concepts of Engineering (the 8th grade STEM magnet class), Spanish, Art 1, and Journalism.
■ An overhaul of the Hogg library is nearly complete. The budget was roughly $30,000 for new books alone. The library also has 16 new computers, and plans are in the works for a relaxed seating area to give students an inviting space for reading and studying. 

Great things are happening at Hogg and Heights families are watching it! A group of parents with Harvard and Travis have started a group to support and facilitate needed changes at Hogg. Creating a group called "Learn Local," these parents have a mission to "Establish a bridge for our children between our successful Heights neighborhood elementary schools and Hogg Middle School, an IB World School and STEM campus, enabling progression within our strong, unique community." The first Learn Local meeting was held on August 20th at the school with Dr. Scnitta. It was an amazing collaboration of over 40 parents from Harvard and Travis. Also in attendance were Anna Eastman, HISD District 1 Trustee; Michele Pola, HISD Chief of Staff; Ms. Berger, Reagan Principal; Mr. Day, Travis Principal; and Mr. Beringer, Harvard Principal. The group discussed the obstacles that families need to over come to make it their "neighborhood middle school of choice," and over the coming months they will work to create a plan "to break down those barriers." 

If you want to keep up with what this group and the school are working on, check out their 'Learn Local' Facebook page to learn more:

Want to see Hogg in action? Learn Local tours are being scheduled now and will eventually take place regularly on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month at 10 a.m. Interested families can also tour at their convenience. Please contact Dr. Schnitta, at 713-802-4700 or to set something up.

Upcoming tour dates:
■ 'Learn Local.' tour, Tuesday, October 8 at 10 a.m.
For this tour only, RSVP to
■ Tuesday, October 15 at 10 a.m. 
■ November 4-8, HISD Magnet Awareness Week, tours daily at 1 p.m. 

This is such exciting progress for the community. This is not only great for parents of Harvard and Travis kids, but for all kids zoned to Hogg and the students already enrolled at the school. All of our community students deserve an amazing education, so many, many thanks to Dr Mina Scnitta for believing in our school and sticking with it!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Undici Undici Studewood: Piatto comes to the Heights

I just got back to Houston from 17 beautiful days in the Berkshires and the first thing I saw on my first morning back:

TABC Application by Piatto Ristorante Royal Oaks for 1111 Studewood

Looks like John Carrabba is moving in to the questionable 1111 Studewood building with a third location of his Piatto franchise. I've never eaten at the other Piatto locations (4925 W. Alabama at Post Oak and 11693 Westheimer at Royal Oaks Club Drive) but the minute I saw the name, I could picture the yellow and red logo. 

I loooove Italian food. If I could only eat one genre of food, Italian would be it. Yelp and other reviews look positive. While I lament another not-unique-to-the-Heights restaurant, I know that I have Coltivare to look forward to fulfill that need. Piatto will be easy walking distance and kid friendly for my family. If I really want to see a silver lining, I can say that perhaps this will not create too much of a traffic jam at Studewood/11th because people won't be coming from other parts of town to eat here like they do for Shade, Liberty Kitchen, or Glasswall. Customers will (hopefully) be largely local. I also realize it is probably unrealistic for an independent, small business to afford the build out and associated rent with this overblown project. Therefore, I say "Va bene, la prendo" and be happy for this concept over the cheesy Dallas sushi chain that was originally rumored to go in to this spot. I will remain optimistic. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summertime = Family Time

I am actually a little late in posting this notice, but this is the time of year when I stop worrying about the Heights Life and focus more on family life. As anyone who has small kids, or was once a small kid themself, knows summer is a pretty special time. We'll be having lot of fun all around the neighborhood... and beyond! These are the days that define a childhood.

We'll still be sharing neighborhood news, food, local shopping, and other tidbits on 


Hope to see you there!

Sing it, Belinda!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Magnolia Grove's Petition to Save a School

While I don't have a horse in this race, I feel the pain of this community. Right now many of us feel at the mercy of developers who see our communities as cash cows instead of neighborhoods (See: Morrison Heights). 

Magnolia Grove Civic Association and Super Neighborhood 22 are making efforts to have HISD keep the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice in it's current location. Here is a explaination from resident and Board Member Marlene McCourt about the issue:
This Thursday afternoon, the HISD trustees will be voting on the sale of the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (HSLECJ).  HSLECJ was ranked one of the top high schools in the country by the Washington Post.   HISD does not have to sale this property; nonetheless, the trustees are seriously considering the sale.  There are two bids.  One is from St. Thomas High School.  The other is from a developer, A.V. Dickson St., LLC.  A very quick web search for A.V. Disckson St. LLC and Alara Ventures found little to no information. 

St. Thomas High School wants the land to expand their school.  They are a private school but they also give back to the community.  Thirty-five percent (35%) of their students receive financial aid which adds up to about $1.45 million annually. 

Alara Ventures has also purchased the Buffalo Bayou Apartments.  These apartments are adjacent to St. Thomas.  The additional purchase of the HSLECJ property will allow Alara Ventures for a bigger development.  This development will be a mixed use development.  It will include offices, retail and residential (probably apartment) spaces.  Do we want that type of development without the infrastructure to support it?   That traffic will go through our already taxed, narrow, old streets. Our neighborhood is plagued by constant issues with water pressure.

One thing to keep in mind is that HISD does not have to sell this property.  In my opinion, it is a shame to sell and destroy beautiful mature trees, green space and another historic building, which is still in use.  Now, it has been said by some of the trustees that the building is beyond repair; however, we see old buildings getting repaired all of the time.  (The Heights Life note: Have these people ever been to Boston, Washington DC, or any other city with many buildings over 100 years old? Tearing down is so wasteful. How long do we think we're going to have landfills to dump entire buildings in? Maddening.)
HSLECJ, photo from Wolfgang Houston
Additionally, the students at HSLECJ have nowhere to go if this sale goes through.  This is why there is a Triple Net Agreement attached to the sale.  It is being proposed the HSLECJ be moved to a location in the third ward, a very unsafe part of that ward. There is no facility there and it would have to be built. 

This sale comes with a Triple Net Lease for either buyer.  In a Triple Net Lease, the tenant (which HISD would become for five to six years) would be responsible for taxes, building insurance and maintenance.  With Alara Ventures, the taxes would be paid by HISD.  On the other hand, St. Thomas is tax exempt so the cost of property taxes would be non-existent, thereby lowering the amount spend on the Triple Net Lease.   HISD must look at this when doing the numbers. 

Here is the way I see it:   Our first option should be for HISD to keep HSLECJ.  HISD should repair this beautiful building.  If HISD cannot do this, then sell it to Saint Thomas.  HSLECJ at its current location is at an easy distance to the courts.  Its central location is convenient for the students who come from all over the city to attend HSLECJ. 

Often, we feel we need things from our elected officials.  Often, we feel ignored.  I know it’s frustrating.  The only way we are going to make a difference is to STAND UP and BE HEARD.  We must attend the meetings, we must make phone calls, we must write letters, we must send emails.   A few people will not make a difference.  It needs to be a lot of us.  We need to let them (the city government and HISD) know that we want a say in how our tax dollars are spent.

Here are some things you can do: 

1.  Be informed.   Here are some links with additional information.   Please note, this article DOES NOT take into account the difference is tax payments for St. Thomas (no tax) vs. Alara Ventures. 

2. Be heard.  Send emails.  Make phone calls.  See the information below containing procedures for speaking to the trustees as well as email addresses. 

3. Get others involved.  Let your neighbors know what is going on.  Encourage them to go to this meeting with you.  If you don’t know who your next door neighbor is, now is a great time to meet them. 

4. Sign the petition.  Get your neighbors and friends who live in the HISD areas to sign the petition.  Here is the link:

5. Work fast.  The meeting is this Thursday afternoon.  Let’s get this done. 

If you wish to address the board at the upcoming meeting, you must register the day before the meeting.  Please follow this link for information on how to register:

Here is the list of HISD Trustees:

Anna Eastman, District I

Juliet K. Stipeche, District VIII
First Vice President

Manuel Rodriguez, Jr.  District III
Second Vice President

Rhonda Skillern-Jones, District II

Michael L. Lunceford, District V
Asst Secretary

Paula M. Harris, District IV

Greg Meyers, District VI

Harvin C. Moore, District VII

Lawrence Marshall, District IX,,

There have been a lot of people in the Heights who have sung the usual refrains: What about property rights? You don't like it, you buy it. You can't stop the progress. These people are now seeing unwanted developments closer to home than they ever suspected. They're going to start fighting harder. Will they win? Well, that's going to take a lot work and some serious changes, but it can happen. In the meantime, the least we can do is work together to show developers that we CARE about our neighborhood. We have already made an investment here. We bought more than just four walls when we bought our homes. We bought a neighborhood character and sense of community that developers refuse or don't care to see. That's why Terry Fisher, who is building the Morrison Heights development, basically told the Woodland Heights Assoc "I know this will reduce your property values... You should move to Spring where I live. I couldn't do this there." You can hear this BS and other amusingly sad sound files on the Facebook page put together to fight this development. 

Anyway, take a couple minutes of your time and help the residents of Magnolia Grove fight for their neighborhood. You may find sometime soon you're asking them to do the same.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

I'm taking the rest of the week off to hang out with the family. Hope you and yours have a safe and fun weekend!

See you next week for more Heights Life...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Seed2Plate Co-Op is Elementary

One day Christina Cicack “got really lost navigating the Houston freeway system. “ An unexpected detour through construction on I10 forced her to change paths and drive through The Heights. She found herself driving down White Oak and was reminded of her of college days in Austin. She immediately felt a sense of home. A native Texan in the process of re-relocating from Eugene, Oregon, Cicack knew this could be her next place to settle. Soon after her crazy detour, she put her whole family in the car and, as if by instinct, they made their way down Bayland Ave. On this driev the family discovered “a great little corner of the Heights” just behind Kaboom Books. They decided they would settle there for a while and put down some roots. “I grew up as an urban kid in Dallas and I want the same experience for my children so The Heights area fit the bill nicely,” Cicack says.

The Cicack family came to the Heights in 2011. Christina became a Travis parent at the same time with her oldest entering pre-k at the neighborhood school. This coming school year she will be a Travis parent x2 with a child in pre-k and a 1st grader.  Her youngest is turning one at the end of this month. The little one they often call “The Co-Op Kid” since he's been going to Central City Co-op literally every week of his life. 

The Co-op Kid. I'd pretty much buy anything that smile was selling!
After moving from Oregon, a land of agriculture with a keen awareness of where food comes from, Cicack was on a mission to find a community here that reflected that. She knew the questions she needed to ask and looked in to Central City Co-op. “Central City passed my ethical and environmental test. They shared the same standards of what I look for when searching for local, chemical-free, and fairly-traded goods and produce. Central City Co-op has had some of the longest standing relationships with Houston's original sustainable farming pioneers and that means something. I began my journey with Central City Co-op as a floor volunteer, greeting visitors and upgraded to updating the web and social media aspects of the co-op.”

While Christina and The Co-Op Kid were doing their thing at Central City, the idea of a co-op at Travis was brought to her attention by former Travis parent and Central City Co-op director, Carolyn Lambeth. Cicack learned that a survey was done, possibly around  2010, among Travis families. The survey was to determine if there was an interest in having a food co-op at Travis. About 75 families and teachers responded with a resounding “YES!”  For Cicack, the idea of a partner co-op made complete sense as she wanted to have the greatest impact she could.  And there it was, her new title:  Partner Co-op Coordinator.

The Travis Co-op was started in November of 2011, and with the help of fellow Travis parent, Jennifer Aiyer, Christina was able to work all the major kinks out of running a co-op.  Starting any new enterprise isn’t easy.  For Christina, “the biggest setback I had in the first year of managing a partner co-op was being pregnant with my third child and suffering from severe forgetfulness.” These days, though, it’s a well oiled machine and she feels more “like superwoman carrying a little one in a baby carrier on my chest along with a couple grocery totes full of local greens, potatoes, onions, and sometimes local watermelons! It's a good feeling and it's one way I know I am having a direct impact by putting real, fresh food on people's tables and, mainly, on kid's plates.”

Now, the Travis Co-op has expanded due to the demand of the neighborhood and by direct requests of Heights residents who want to participate in the co-op model but don't necessarily have a child attending Travis Elementary. Christina and the Travis Co-op are proud to announce a neighborhood co-op, in partnership with Central City Co-Op and Heights of Health!

Seed2Plate offers Heights residents a selection of local, organic, and sustainably grown produce and eggs delivered conveniently in our own neighborhood. It is their goal “to deliver you fresh and affordably priced produce to help meet your family's need for chemical-free, nutrient-dense produce! In return we support our local growers who work hard to be caring stewards of the environment.”
Cicak volunteering for Central City Co-op at Downtown Food Day celebration in 2011
Seed2Plate is currently operating a pick-up location in The Heights at:

Heights of Health
540 Frasier St, Houston, TX 77007
(off White Oak, across the street from Onion Creek Cafe).
Pick-up is Wednesday, between 3pm-5pm!
Haven't been there before? Go check them out:
Want to know some background on them? Read my previous post "A Healing House"

In celebration of their new summer location at Heights of Health, Seed2Plate is offering a fabulous discount to new and returning co-op members: Add an Annual Membership of $48 to your shopping cart this summer and your membership will remain good through next December. That gives you six months free membership to the co-op.

How does Seed2Plate Co-op work?
  1. Decide to eat more fresh and local fruits and veggies.
  2. Put your trust in Seed2Plate to source organic and sustainably grown produce.
  3. Place an online order at by Thursday  9am of the week PRIOR to Wednesday's pick-up. New and renewing members add an annual membership to their shopping cart (with the summer discount, membership costs you about 62 cents per week)!
  4. Have 2 re-usable grocery tote bags ready with your name and cell number labeled on it. Leave one at Heights of Health and leave the other when you pick-up your produce the following Wednesday.
  5. Pick up your yummy co-op shares at Heights of Health(540 Fraiser St) during the hours of 3pm-5pm on Wednesdays.
  6. Re-order your share the same way as before by the ordering deadline of Thursday 9am. Sit tight and don't forget to pick-up your share on Wednesdays!
If you have any questions or comments, contact
To learn more about how co-op works, visit them at
You can sign-up and place your orders online at:

As you know, I also love anything that is a double whammy of local business support. I asked Cicack how Seed2Plate came to partner with Heights of Health.

Heights of Health on Frazier St, just across from Onion Creek
Cicack knew of Heights of Health through another Travis parent, who invited her to a stress seminar at the holistic health center. “I gladly went. Immediately walking through the doors it felt like home and the wonderful team who operates it are very knowledgeable on integrative care and wellness.” In Eugene, Cicack had worked at a wellness center very similar to Heights of Health and it clicked for her as being a genuine place for The Heights community to pick-up their fruits and veggies. Fortunately, the Heights of Health team felt the same way about the co-op.

Christina Cicack and her partners at Seed2Plate are incredibly optimistic about this venture. They believe the Heights will be receptive and they’ll be creating a healthier, happier neighborhood. “Plus,” says Cicack, “I want to show other neighborhoods how easy participating in a community co-op can actually be while having huge rewards for the neighborhood, local farmers/growers and the environment.”

Cicack wants healthy food for her family. And yours!
I have long wanted to join Central City. This new partnership puts their concept and products in reach for myself and other Heights residents who just couldn’t get to Central City’s location during their Wednesday hours. I share Christina’s optimism and wish them much success! I also can’t wait for my first bushel of fresh, summer produce!