April 26, 2023 824 PM
MARFA — When Daniel and Jessie Browning took to social media last week to confirm in writing what had long been the talk about town — that Frama, the beloved coffee shop operated by the couple from its North Austin Street storefront since 2008, would be closing imminently — it soon became clear how much the spot would be missed.
Tributes poured in from mourners of all kinds. Several former workers chimed in that it was the best job they’d ever had; longtime locals shared memories of visiting the shop back when it was new; visitors joined in to share that it had been a favorite stop in Marfa.
Daniel Browning said he’d even heard from folks who had met the love of their life in his shop.
“We’ve had countless stories of people who met for the first time here and have gotten married — people who have had kids after meeting here,” he said.
In their nearly 15 years in Marfa operating the joint coffee shop-laundromat venture, Daniel said he’d relished being a reliable presence for the community — a role he would miss fulfilling, even as it was time to move on.
“It’s been the casual, low-key place to go — dependable, reliable,” he said. “There’s never a second guess of whether we’re open or here for people. That kind of hurts, to not be doing that anymore.”
Nevertheless, Frama will close its doors for good this Sunday, on April 30. The Brownings are selling off their businesses — they’ve already closed their Alpine location, Plaine, and plan to sell San Angelo cafe Buttercup as well — and moving to Portugal, where they plan to work remote jobs and enjoy spending time with their four daughters.
Daniel was happy to confirm that while the coffee shop portion of the business will close, the laundromat will remain open as the space seamlessly changes hands. He and the building’s owner together found a local interested in buying the equipment and leasing the laundromat space so the much-needed local service could stay up and running without interruption.
“The original thing that got us to Marfa was the desire to help people, and the laundromat was always a service,” said Daniel. “I told everybody I’ll do everything we can do to keep the laundromat in Marfa, because I know how important it is.”
The Brownings stepped in to fill that void when they first opened the business in December of 2008. They’d moved to Marfa from Austin two years prior, and were interested in launching their own business. When they asked around town what types of business were most needed, they overwhelmingly received two responses — a pharmacy and a laundromat (The Prescription Shop didn’t open until 2016).
“We had no background in pharmacies at all, but I did, at least, have a background in fixing things,” said Daniel. “So that got us close enough to a laundromat.”
At first, Frama was a laundromat only. The coffee shop hybrid model came later, when the Brownings realized the coffee shops in town were preparing to close — another void for them to potentially fill.
“It was just kind of how it happened,” said Daniel of the hybrid design. “It wasn’t part of a master plan.”
The Brownings went on to replicate that model at their Alpine location, Plaine. They decided to move to San Angelo about four years ago, eager to grow their brand in a bigger town, and ended up opening Buttercup in 2021.
But now, after devoting so many years to running a slew of businesses across different cities, they’re ready for a bigger change.
The family will be Portugal-bound once all the loose ends are tied up in Texas. Daniel explained they wanted to move to Europe driven partly by a desire to provide a safe upbringing for their children — he recalled breaking down while dropping his kids off at school after the latest school shooting, and deciding he wanted to feel secure in the knowledge that his daughters would be safe at school. Portugal was safe and beautiful and full of history, he said.
“We realized it’s a lot of work, and we had put 17 years into being business owners and making things work,” said Daniel. “We decided we were ready to take some time just for our family, to live for ourselves, and we were ready to shut down our businesses and just do something else.”