Athens store offers space for exercise and coffee

Van Zandt Coffee Co. is more than just a cafe. It’s a growing business owned by a veteran who started with a small gym in Guangzhou.

ATHENS, Texas — While most cafes soothe you with jazz and quiet music, one particular store in Athens will get you moving.

The Van Zandt Coffee Co. located just outside of Athens has been booming since 2016, when military veteran Sam Deen opened his first location in Guangzhou.

“I started roasting coffee in my kitchen in Canton and smoking my house,” Deen said. “My first roaster was about the size of a microwave.”

So why did Deen choose to open in Athens?

“I was thinking of Kaufman at one point and looked at a property there,” Deen said. “Then I found this property to buy and we did.”

Deen wasn’t looking for a nice place downtown because he didn’t want it to be a quiet, fancy place.

Rather a distribution site where he can transform his beans into a pack.

“I came here to experience CrossFit, which was completely new to me,” said dedicated customer Boog Ferrell.

You read that right, CrossFit, because Sam started teaching it before moving into coffee after retiring from the military.

“And the place smelled good so I brought home some coffee,” Ferrell said. “I always say I came here for the coffee and stayed for the people.”

The people Deen wanted to help change their lives by giving them training he taught while serving in the War on Terror in Afghanistan.

“I went to Afghanistan for a year and in 2011 I got out and came back home,” Deen said. “I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and I didn’t have a lot of infantry skills, like an infantryman.”

So Deen decided to put her fitness knowledge to good use.

“As officers, we train our soldiers every day and every morning,” Deen said. “So I was like, well, I can probably do this for civilians. So I started a little gym and it kind of grew. It started in 2011 and we grew together. locations. “

Proving that with hard work, dedication and community support, anyone can be successful.

“My former soldiers, they left the military to move on and do great things,” Deen said. “Most of them have, but you know when they can get that support, start a small business and you buy from them. It really has a huge impact on their lives.”

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