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Hallsville coffee shop offers healthy choices, homey atmosphere

By Daylina Miller dmiller@marshallnewsmessenger.com
Dec. 17, 2014 at 10 p.m.

<p>Traci Dionisio has been a hairdresser, salon owner and stay-at-home mom, but since 2011, she's owned the Main Street Coffee House in Hallsville.</p>

She's been a hairdresser, salon owner and stay-at-home mom, but since 2011, Traci Dionisio has been the proud owner of Main Street Coffee House, a safe haven for caffeine addicts, the lunch crowd and a diverse customer base ranging from teenagers and their teachers to church groups.

Dionisio relocated from California nine years ago when her husband took a job in Marshall. As high school graduation approached for her two children, she began to think of how she could fill the gap left as they went off to college.

"I'd been a stay at a home mom for a long time and saw the need in Hallsville for a place for kids to hang out, or moms or teachers," Dionisio said, "so I decided to start Main Street Coffee House."

While her target audience was initially the high school and college crowd, she soon realized how diverse her customers really were.

"It's not the target I really thought it was going after, the teenagers," Dionisio said. "It's a lot wider than I expected, totally different than I expected."

But she's not complaining.

"I've got a group of older ladies that come one a month that are all over 60 or 70," Dionisio said. "At 3 o' clock, all the high school kids come in."

"I tried to do music at night," Dionisio said. "I got older people all over 70. I don't know if it's not cool enough (for the students) or they just didn't get it, but it was senior citizen night out. It was adorable, and they were awesome, and they would stay until I kicked them out."

While Dionisio owns the coffee house and employs eight other people, including Manager Larry Harada, she doesn't shy away from jumping onto a register to take drink orders or delivering a plate of freshly made food to a table.

As people she recognizes come in and out of the door, she waves and calls them by name. As one group of teachers, regulars at the coffee shop, get ready to leave, she calls out to them.

"Bye, ladies! Merry Christmas, if I don't see you!"

She enjoys putting names to faces, really getting to know the people in the community who visit her business.

"Everybody becomes part of your community," Dionisio said. "Those teachers come once a week and have lunch. You build friendships, they bring Christmas presents. It's really sweet."

The coffee house shares a wall with El Sombrero, a popular Mexican restaurant. Dionisio owns the building, and the restaurant pays her rent. They enjoy a symbiotic relationship and often share the same customers.

"We don't compete," Dionisio said. "If you want a heavy Mexican food place you go to El Sombrero, and if you want something on the lighter side, you go to us."

Dionisio says the coffee place fulfills a healthier niche in the community, giving residents something aside from fast-food joints to choose from. Signature dishes include a berry "power salad," chicken bacon ranch flatbread sandwich and the hugely popular breakfast sandwich called the "Crossfit," a creation that uses two eggs instead of bread to house ham, bell peppers, spinach, cheese and avocado.

Aside from healthier, lighter dining options, Dionisio's goal is for customers to have that "at-home feeling, a front porch feeling, where people can meet and hang out and have something a bit different they'd otherwise have to go to Longview to get."

"I want it to be comfortable," Dionisio said. "I didn't want you to walk in and think you couldn't drop something on the floor, but it's still nicer than your average coffee house."

The coffee shop regularly repaints its walls and redoes the couch upholstery to keep it looking sharp, but also comfortable. An accent wall painted turquoise makes the framed paintings pop, and the surrounding beige walls are decorated with handmade signs highlighting known streets in Hallsville.

"Some people said, 'Why don't you get purple and gold, the Hallsville colors?' But I wanted it to be our own," Dionisio said.

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