Graham Slam Bakery owner Emily Graham thinks The Flying Crow rail car, just down the alleyway from her downtown shop, looks like a great spot for a unique cafe.
In fact, she's signed a lease for the space and plans to open a cafe there.
"I want to open up a breakfast and lunch cafe, serving coffee and breakfast items in the morning. And transitioning into lunch we'll do sandwiches, soups and possibly some salads," Graham said. "My plan is to open by June 17, which is a Monday."
Graham plans to offer quality meats and cheeses, sliced in-house, fresh-baked bread for sandwiches and soups. For breakfast, she plans to serve simple, affordable fare like bagels, muffins, croissants and French toast.
Graham, who parlayed her baking talents into winning a "Good Morning America" Christmas-cookie showdown in 2017, went pro with her own cookie concoctions last year and then, this January, opened Graham Slam in the former Flour Child spot at 112 Pine St.
Now Graham will also operate a cafe in the refurbished railroad lounge car that became a labor-of-love restoration project for David Peavy at 305 Front St., across from his 1894 City Market, home to apartments and an art gallery.
Peavy renovated The Flying Crow to give it retro charm, an early 1940s appearance that recalls its heyday as a Santa Fe Railroad lounge car.
Now, cafe visitors will be able to enjoy a meal in that atmosphere as they look out at railway cars passing through town.
As a downtown business owner, Graham sees this additional venture as a good idea just a block away from where she sells decorated gourmet cookies and cupcakes, fresh macarons and more, including keto-friendly items.
"When this opportunity arose, it was just a perfect fit for us," Graham said about the cafe. She's found downtown to be an amazing place for her bakery.
"Everybody that owns a business downtown has been very welcoming. They're very supporting of everybody downtown. It feels like just a big family and small community," Graham said.
She'd followed The Flying Crow's progress from the time it was delivered from its previous location to its current home at Olive and Front streets.
"I was a huge fan, and I thought that anything inside this train was going to be successful because it was just a unique opportunity that you can't get anywhere else in Texarkana," Graham said. She's also known the Peavy family since she was a youngster. David told her this opportunity was available, encouraging her to look at the space.
"I immediately knew I would love it because of just the history of everything," Graham said. Originally, she thought her bakery spot could add a sandwich shop, but she's so busy with the bakery there's not enough room to do both in that space.
And being at the bakery, she heard people say they wished someone sold soups and sandwiches downtown.
"So I just knew that there would be a market for it," Graham said. "And, like I said, this is such a unique place that it would bring a crowd from not only Texarkana but visitors that are visiting the area or passing through."
In addition to table seating, a window seating area will give a front row view of the downtown train yard. Eventually, outdoor picnic table seating will be added.
Diners will order at what served as the lounge car's bar. Decoratively, modern touches join the 1940s vibe, but vintage decorations and the overall look recall the past.
Graham aims to open for festivities during Railfest on Saturday, May 11, to give visitors a preview and introduce The Flying Crow to Texarkana.
"I'm planning to serve pie and coffee and tea that day because we'll have vendors out there already," Graham said, "but I think that's something not anybody else will have in this area."
Graham said she hopes to open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. She'll be looking for workers, too: hard-working go-getters who can work in small spaces.
As the owner of the rail car where the cafe will operate, Peavy believes it will make Texarkana proud and welcome tourists.
"I'm very pleased to have such a high quality restaurateur to occupy and operate the Flying Crow," Peavy said.