Drive down Washington Avenue, and you’ll see a beautiful Victorian house. If your windows are rolled down, you’ll smell the smokiness of darn good bbq wafting from behind the house. Margaret Smelser and Heath Collard moved to Waco and fulfilled Margaret’s dream (literally) of owning a restaurant in a Victorian mansion. We sat down to eat some food and learn more.
How did you get started?
When I was still living in New Mexico, I literally had a dream one night about opening a sandwich shop in a victorian mansion. I forgot about it until Heath (business and life partner) and I were moving from New Mexico and saw this old building (built in the 1887) when we were going through Waco. I knew we had to have it! Turns out the owner was going to list it on Craigslist the very next day. We jumped on it.
Tell me how you landed on the name Tesla’s Cafe?
We had a different name and logo but as we were driving to our accountant’s to register our LLC, I told Heath it wasn’t right and I don’t what know to what but we need to change it. I turned on the XM radio and as I did, the band Tesla came on and I said “How about Tesla’s?” Heath replied “How about Tesla’s Cafe”. And I liked it! It turned out he was thinking about Tesla the inventor while I was thing about the band but we both liked it.
What’s the concept behind Tesla’s?
We want this place to be a friendly homemade vibe where people can come and hang out and eat home cooking. We knew we wanted to have craft beer and coffee because those are two things we love. But to get your license for craft beer, you have to serve food. Heath always loved to smoke his own bbq so we brought our smoker and started smoking! My sister introduced me to homemade ice cream so we serve that as well.
Tell me about the ice cream.
The ice cream is homemade and made with local ingredients. The type of vanilla you use is huge, and we use fresh-roasted, vanilla bean syrup from Chaney brothers who also supply our coffee. Every batch is a little different and tastes exactly like what I want it to be today.
As new Wacoans and business owners, what do you love about Waco?
The people. When we first came to visit, the people were really welcoming. We felt at home here instantly. And there has been so much support for the cafe, people stopping by and even volunteering to help us.