DLU Member Spotlight: Nathanael Johnson of Rêve Coffee Roasters
Nathanael Johnson is the owner of Rêve Coffee Roasters on Jefferson Street and a member of DLU since 2018. Rêve—French for “dream”—came to Downtown Lafayette in 2014 and quickly emerged as more than just a coffee shop. The café also its own beans, which have become a staple in grocery stores, and a point of pride when served in homes and restaurants throughout Acadiana. Rêve also frequently collaborates with other members of the Downtown community to host art exhibits, small concerts, latte art competitions, and trivia nights. It is a gathering place for a diverse crowd of professionals, artists, and caffeine addicts of all kinds.
Since this member spotlight was recorded, Rêve began a substantial renovation to match Natanael’s words on the importance of creating a quality environment and experience for visitors and customers. The new renovations included an overhaul of the interior and exterior of the building, with new paint, signage, furniture, and outdoor seating. A portion of the exterior improvements were completed in partnership with the Downtown Development Authority through DDA’s Façade Improvement Program. These improvements have already had a positive effect on Rêve’s business. Nathanael noticed a sales increase in the month following their remodel, and he credits the success to the excitement and buzz surrounding the investment back into his business.
We asked Nathanel to give us some background on Rêve’s history and why he feels it is important to be in a district like Downtown. We hope his story can inspire other entrepreneurs to chase their dreams in the heart of Lafayette.
How Rêve became more than just a dream
Before I started my first coffee shop I worked in my dad’s costume cabinet shop. I also built houses for a little while, and did landscaping on the side. While working with my father, I went to college for business, but then decided to open my own business instead and that’s how my first café, Mosaic, was born. I started Mosaic 13 years ago in downtown Eunice, which made me fall in love with doing business in a downtown area. After about 5 to 6 years in the coffee business, I wanted to start roasting my own beans. This was the start of how Rêve was born. I began roasting with my friend Chris, who is now a business partner in Rêve, about 7 years ago in a small bakery that used to be a house. I always wanted Rêve to be in a downtown area, since my first shop was downtown, but the timing wasn’t right in Eunice. When the moment came, we were approached with a building in Downtown Lafayette and we quickly moved on it. And we are very glad we did.
“The recent investment we made in Rêve is a statement on where we are and what we want to be. We are invested in the culture of our city, and what better way to show it than in the heart of Downtown Lafayette.”
—Nathanael Johnson, owner of Rêve Coffee Roasters, DLU member since 2018.
Creating a quality environment and experience
Since then, I have been opening more of my own stores as well as consulting other cafés to be successful, and I believe a huge part of success for a café is a good location. I also believe that our customers see, taste, feel, and experience at Rêve is crucial to our culture. The recent investment we made in Rêve is a statement on where we are and what we want to be. We are invested in the culture of our city, and what better way to show it than in the heart of Downtown Lafayette.
Taking Rêve to the next level
At first, we really just wanted to add more seating to Rêve, but the Facade Improvement Grant from DDA encouraged us to go all in. We weren’t expecting to see the growth in revenue or the overwhelming positive response as a result. But throughout the remodel process, our staff was excited for the new look and the customers could see that excitement. It was something we were really proud of and I think it became magnetic.
We invite the community to share in our vision. Simply put, Rêve encourages creativity with coffee in our culture, but anyone can do what we do with whatever their passion is. It doesn’t matter if you are a café or a clothing store or salon, as long as what your customers see and feel leads to a positive experience.
–Nathanael Johnson, owner of Rêve Coffee Roasters
Photos of the Rêve remodel
Rêve remodeled the interior and exterior of their Downtown location at the end of 2019. The space was designed by Victoria Treuil and photos were provided by Ana Treuil Photography.
Downtown Lafayette Unlimited is a nonprofit membership organization that has supported the community of Downtown Lafayette since 1983. The 200-member-strong organization is comprised of Downtown business leaders like Nathanael Johnson, as well as other individuals, families, and businesses from throughout Acadiana. Our members believe in the importance of a strong downtown.