When Athens voters decided to make the town wet in 2012, one couple in Austin —Bess and Mike Suarez—took particular notice. Bess had grown up in Athens, and the couple had entertained the idea of leaving Austin for East Texas before. But the vote allowed them to come up with a plan to open a specialty store featuring craft beer and quality wines, the likes of which Athens and surrounding communities hadn’t yet seen.
Come and Take It
Come and Take It, at 301 E. Larkin in Athens, is open from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tue-Thu, and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Fri-Sat. It is closed Sunday and Monday. For more information, call 903/264-1277.
In July 2013, they opened Come and Take It in a former John Deere dealership, but have since expanded their original vision. Come and Take It is now more than a beer and wine store; it’s also a grocery featuring locally sourced beef, chicken, and an array of gourmet foods—and a gathering place for a burgeoning community of foodies.
Come and Take It’s monthly tasting event (on the Saturday before the first Monday of each month), in which breweries and wineries in the region set up tables and showcase their wares on a Saturday afternoon, has become a social staple for a number of Athenians. When Athens created its first CSA (community-supported agriculture, allowing customers to subscribe to weekly boxes of produce directly from farmers), Come and Take It was selected as the place where CSA members would pick up their boxes.
“It’s morphed into more of a grocery over time,” says Bess about Come and Take It’s growth. “What you can’t typically find here is what we focus on stocking. People tell me, ‘All of those things that I used to have to go to Dallas to find, I can get here now.’”
Yet connecting customers to quality local beer and wine is still a primary focus, and they’re thrilled that craft beer is catching on in their part of the world.
“When we got our TABC license, the first thing we did was visit Jim Elliott to buy some of his Cedar Creek beers for the store,” Mike recalls. “Being a buyer, and getting to choose what beers we offer here, is my favorite part of this job.”
They still do stock some familiar big-name selections for customers who aren’t yet knowledgeable about craft beer, but part of their mission is to educate customers who are intrigued by the less familiar names in their well-stocked beer fridge.
“We love it when a Coors Light drinker comes up to us and says, ‘Tell me about something here I might like,’” Mike says. “We’ve build up the kind of trust where people will ask us to make recommendations, and that’s really the best compliment we can get.”