Growing up in River Valley near Glen Flora, El Campo High graduate Randy Hines probably never imagined he would be in the business of making and selling kolaches, but today he and wife Lucy own the Kolache Shoppe with two locations in Houston.
Surrounded by Czech culture, Hines remembers developing a love for kolaches at a young age.
“I went to St. Philip Catholic School and was introduced to kolaches via the school lunches there,” he said. “Homemade kolaches were often served as dessert.”
After graduating from El Campo High School in 1996, he enrolled at Texas A&M University where he graduated in 2001 with degrees in accounting and in management information systems.
“After graduating from A&M in 2001, my first job was in Houston at the public accounting firm Deloitte,” he said. “Several years later I spent some time working for Valero Energy in San Antonio.”
He then moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue another degree and that is where he met wife Lucy, a native Texan who was also studying in D.C.
Living in D.C., Hines loved his time there, but missed life, and especially the good cuisine, back in Texas.
“I definitely missed all of the foods that I took for granted in Texas, like authentic barbecue, Tex-Mex, beef jerky, Cajun food and of course kolaches,” he said.
“During my summer break of 2006, I came back to Houston to work for a few months, and my client at the time was in downtown near Milam Street. And to my great joy, I learned that the owner of the Kolache Shoppe on Richmond also had a small shop on Milam, just a few blocks from where I was at.”
Hines became a frequent customer of the Kolache Shoppe and began to toss around the idea of owning his own kolache business.
“My idea was to learn to make the pastry and then open up a bakery in the nation’s capital, which at that time had no such thing,” he said.
Hines got in touch with the owner of the Kolache Shoppe to see if he would teach him the art of making kolaches.
“He said he would be glad to meet with me and discuss further, and that started a long-standing friendship, eventually leading to the sale of his business to me. I didn’t wind up opening a bakery in Washington, D.C., but my vision eventually evolved into wanting to bring a slice of my own childhood to the heart of Houston.”
The Kolache Shoppe carries the traditional fruit kolache as well as the meat-filled varieties called “klobasnicky.”
“We also have a full espresso bar featuring locally roasted coffee beans from Boomtown Coffee,” he said.
When asked what sets the Kolache Shoppe apart from other kolache businesses in the area, Hines said the time and love that goes into making each kolache or klobasnicky.
“We are family owned and operated, and we take great pride in this pastry,” he said. “We take the time to produce it in an authentic and traditional way, and our customers can taste the difference.
“We take pride in making kolaches and klobasnicky the old-fashioned way, from scratch and one at a time – giving each one the time to rise becoming light and fluffy,” he said. “Kolache dough isn’t complicated, but it isn’t easy to do well. It doesn’t lend itself to being hurried. It needs to rest multiple times and rise multiple times. When you try to hurry it and mass produce it, you wind up removing its character and uniqueness.”
Kolaches come in assorted fruit choices and sweet cheeses, but for Hines, the cream cheese kolache is his favorite.
“And my favorite klobasnek is our venison sausage with jalapeno and cheese,” he added.
But the secret is in the dough, Hines said, which has been passed down from the previous owner to him, a recipe that has proven to be authentic and sweetly delicious since 1970.
The Czech population has played a large role in keeping the kolache alive and passing it on to their families,” Hines said. “We encounter people daily at our bakery who say, ‘My grandmother used to make the best apricot kolaches.’ Or ‘She would spend hours making these kolaches warm and fresh for us - you couldn’t beat them!’”