by Brandon Williams
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 By Richard Tew

The Post Newspaper Contributing Writer 

 Quaint coffee shops set in 122-year-old repurposed homes offer two things: A connection with history—something often lost in modern times—and good food and drink mixed with a sense of community.  “Soulfreak Railroad Café” which recently opened in a history-rich building located near the middle of League Park is set to offer both.

Back in 2015, Soulfreak first opened up as a design space in a teepee hut located on Bradford Ave. in Kemah.  

 “I did a lot of designs on tee shirts. It was kind of like a surf shop/surf bag shop,” said Soulfreak’s owner Amy Lyn.

 Lyn decided to close up shop after about six months.  

 “I didn’t pick the area very well,” said Lyn.  “It just didn’t work out.” 

 While working full-time in the oil and gas industry, Lyn went back to school and got her Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from the University of Houston Clear Lake.  This was something she says her dad would have appreciated because he encouraged her to pursue her talents.

 “My dad always wanted me to do something with my art,” said Lyn.  “I wanted to do something that’s significant and that was passionate for myself.”

 When she graduated college, Lyn says she started thinking about bringing back Soulfreak.

 “I had this desire to bring back Soulfreak,” said Lyn.  “It was more of this desire to help my fellow artists find their way and have a place to showcase their art.”  

 Lyn knew she wanted to have a place to enable artists to learn more about art, feature and even sell their art work.  

 “Coffee was the anchor,” said Lyn.

 Soulfreak opened as a coffee café in Clear Lake Shores on Oct 26, 2018.  The auspicious day coincided with the anniversary of the death of Lyn’s father Rodney Gilmore who passed away several years before.  Lyn’s mother Nancy Dorsey passed away when Lyn was just 25.  

 “It turned a sad day into something beautiful,” said Amy Lyn. “He was my everything.”  

Lyn says her dad taught her how to be self-sufficient and instilled a strong work ethic.  

 “He owned his own AC company,” said Lyn.  “I watched him work every day.”  

 Lyn says oftentimes, her father would barter or trade food for something of value in exchange for repairing an AC unit if a woman couldn’t afford to have the repair fixed.

 Owning her own business and developing her art is a way Lyn says she can honor her parents and their efforts to instill a strong work ethic in her.   

 The “soul” of SoulFreak lies in its desire to fuse food and drink with art and purpose. Lyn has advice for anyone trying to take their passions and turn them from an idea to reality.

 “You start out, ‘I’ve got this idea, I am going to see it through,'” said Lyn.  “But if you kept on and you put some time and layering in it, in that painting—just like life—you put your time and your energy and you keep moving forward, something beautiful will mold out of it.”

 Nearly three months ago, Lyn was told about the possibility of putting in a bid for a space the city of League City had for rent. 

The location was the old “Byrd House,” located in League Park between the playground and the main part of the park.  The house was built in 1901 by GH&H railroad for the train superintendent.  Most recently, the building was used by the city’s parks department.  It was undergoing repair and restoration when it was being considered for use as a visitor information center by the city.  

 After a Request for Proposal (RFP) was published, and bidders submitted required forms and business information, SoulFreak was awarded a year contract to rent the building and set up shop. 

 They first opened their doors for business on November 10.  

 Part of the agreement between Soulfreak and the city of League City is to offer information about League City and its many historic landmarks.  Coloring books for kids featuring historic homes, churches and buildings.  A small room near the back of the café serves as a small visitor’s center where patrons can look at historic maps and photos, and read information about city landmarks.  

 League City’s Convention and Visitors Bureau Manager Stephanie Polk, who started with the city in 2020, says she is tasked with marketing the city and promoting tourism in the area.  She says she held a similar position for nearly 20 years in the Beaumont area.  

 Polk says private/public partnerships such as the one between the city of League City and SoulFreak benefits the business, the city and area residents.  She says bringing in a business like Soulfreak to the park can serve as a hub where people can learn more about the history of League City and the historic district.  

 “Whenever I came in, part of my tourism strategy and plan was to develop the downtown district for tourism.  This was a component of that,” said Polk.  

 Tourism-based projects like these are funded by Hotel Occupancy Tax (H.O.T. tax) funds collected from hotels which help bring in people from out of town to get them to spend money in the city to help bolster the economy.

 “The state shows for every $1 you spend on tourism and marketing, $7 comes back into the local economy,” said Polk. “It’s a pretty good return on investment.”

 A decision was made by the city to use the refurbished house which sits in the middle of League Park, as both a venue for Soulfreak, and also as an information center where locals and visitors to the area can learn about League City and its rich history.

 “We want people to come in and see what League City has to offer,” Lyn.  “What’s going on around town? What shops are around here that we can promote?”

 Lyn says Soulfreak utilizes other small businesses in the area and features their products at Soulfreak.  

 “We all collaborate together to build this brand,” said Lyn.

 Some of those goods include both hot and cold coffee and drinks, vegan pastries and other fare such as empanadas and an assortment of soups. Lyn says in the near future she hopes to offer tamales as well.  

 “It’s amazing to see how small businesses can boost other smaller businesses to get where they need to go,” said Lyn.  “We want to help these people succeed.”  

 In addition to great drinks and food, Soulfreak will play host to local musicians and will offer market days as well.  Movie nights are also being planned as are art classes.  Local artists will also have the opportunity to show off their talents. 

 A grand opening and ribbon cutting is set for Saturday, November 25th at 7 a.m.  Soulfreak Railroad Café is located at 512 2nd St. 

Photo cutline:  Soulfreak Railroad Café owner Amy Lyn.  Photo by Richard Tew/The Post Newspaper.

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