The movement that’s brought specialty coffee to many parts of Houston has mostly skipped River Oaks, but a new shop aims to change that. Meet Duo Coffee & Pilates, a new cafe and fitness studio designed to serve residents of River Oaks, Upper Kirby, and Montrose (2147 Westheimer Rd.).


Married couple Karman and Marcus Lovely got into the pilates business five years ago. When they outgrew a smaller space, they searched for a larger location that would allow them to serve more clients and provide Marcus an opportunity to cultivate his interest in coffee. They opened Duo in January and have been steadily building a following for both Karman’s classes and Marcus’s lattes.


“I’ve been fascinated with coffee for several years,” Marcus Lovely tells CultureMap. “I really wanted to open a coffee shop. I figured no better time to create a new concept than now. That’s where Duo came from.”


Lovely credits Blacksmith owner David Buehrer for helping him learn about coffee by teaching him the fine points of things like latte art and sourcing. To get ready for opening Duo, Lovely worked as a barista at Tenfold Coffee in The Heights.


Duo serves beans from Tenfold Coffee alongside pastries from Koffeteria and bagels from the Bagel Shop Bakery (formerly New York Bagels). Housemade oatmeal and overnight oats round out the food options.


One way that Duo seeks to cultivate coffee-obsessive customers is by serving single origin espressos. From Lovely’s perspective, the rotating selection keeps people engaged and encourages them to stop by to try the latest offering.


“My baristas are all career baristas,” Lovely explains. “They’re educated in coffee. They care about creating an experience for people.”


Lovely says his goals for the immediate future are pretty straightforward. Duo plans to add toasts to its menu, including some made with peanut butter from Fix & Fogg, the New Zealand-based purveyor with a shop in Montrose. Obtaining a beer and wine license would allow the shop to stay open later and offer happy hour. More broadly, he wants to grow the shop’s following so that its busy weekends become busy weekdays, too.


“We have realistic expectations,” he says. “We want people to know we’re here. We want the River Oaks-Upper Kirby area to be a destination for coffee.”

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