The Whole Point of That 45-Minute Croissant Line at Common Bond — and Other Stand-Ins for Public Space in Houston

THE WHOLE POINT OF THAT 45-MINUTE CROISSANT LINE AT COMMON BOND — AND OTHER STAND-INS FOR PUBLIC SPACE IN HOUSTON Line at Common Bond, 1706 Westheimer Rd. at Dunlavy, Montrose, HoustonStar baker and former b-baller Roy Shvartzapel explains the larger social purpose behind the fact that customers are having to wait in line for 45 minutes to buy croissants at his recently owned Common Bond bakery at Dunlavy and Westheimer: “I think there’s a value in that. Not for me, but particularly in a city like Houston that’s the ultra in non-pedestrian. We, on a scale from one to 10 in pedestrian life, are at a zero. We’re not even at a one. It’s the infrastructure. We cannot have, for example, a subway system. We’re just not designed that way. What we can have are places that allow people — whether it be in a line or in a tight space in a restaurant — where you’re not sitting far away in your little bubble. We’re already in our little bubbles whether it’s in a car or in a cube. When you’re in a line with a group of strangers, you never know who you might meet or break into conversation with.” [Eating Our Words; previously on Swamplot] Photo of line at Common Bond, 1706 Westheimer Rd.: Amber Z.

45 Comment

  • I agree 100%.
    You never get those awesome ‘chance encounters’ in Houston like you do in NY.
    And 45 minutes is well worth the wait for this food. AH-MAZE-ING. I can’t stop telling people about how great this place is. Hands down my new favorite place.
    Tip: It opens at 9 AM on the weekend. Get there b/f 9 AM if you don’t want to wait 45 minutes. If it’s past 9:30, you’re screwed.

  • The idea of standing in line for 45 minutes is not mine for how to connect with fellow Houstonians.

  • That’s the biggest line of BS yet to explain an absurdly inefficient system. Chef should moonlight for a slimy politician needing a spin doctor. The food is good but it isn’t that good.

  • Ok, I’m not waiting 45 minutes for The Mansion on Turtle Creek, much less a croissant bakery. I had to laugh at that lame spin about taking to strangers for 45 minutes–oh joy, you can all bitch about how absurd it is to wait in line that long for food like this. I’d rather Cafe Express, I know what I’m getting there and don’t have to wait 45 minutes taking to some junior leaguer about an Estate Sale in River Oaks or being cruised by an overweight silver daddy.

  • Talking****

  • I lived in Mew York City for about 18 months; Paris France for another 6 months — I can count on one hand the number of “awesome chance encounters” I’ve had in either place.
    .
    So I would argue that aspect of it is overrated, and besides – the idea of long waits at good restaurants is not new in Houston. Ever go to Baby Barnaby’s on a weekend?

  • I feel like waiting in line is like a thing now. I was just in Austin and everywhere people (youngs) were waiting in line – like insane long lines – for the most pedestrian things. The thing at the end of the line isn’t even what people are there for – they’re just there for the line.

  • 45 minutes for a croissant is pretty lame. people in that line are prolly lamer. starting to smell like Austin up in there.

  • while Shvartzapel may be a good baker, he lacks common sense. houston, a poor place for pedestrians? of course, from may to september, it is 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity. i don’t know about him but most people don’t enjoy the sensation of sweat trickling down one’s crack and the subsequent swamp crotch that comes with activity in a warm and humid climate.

    just because you can do something (walking in hot, humid weather) doesn’t mean its a good idea. look at all those “hip” pedestrian cities: san fran, portland, new york, seattle, london, amsterdam et al. they are all in cool climates with low humidity.

    it is easy to complain houston is not pedestrian friendly if you aren’t having to shower 3 times day due to the heat.

    before i finish, i remind people of two other places where long queues were popular: soviet russia and eastern europe. perhaps like the soviets, mr. Shvartzapel’s bakery is inefficient and unable to meet the market demand thus the queues. like i wrote earlier, just because you can do it doesn’t make it a good idea.

  • all the social fun of communist food rationing, but with ‘free-market’ pricing and forced, bougie-enthusiasm to boot! bakery dude is a marketing genius.

  • …Yeah. No. So since we aren’t designed for a subway system, the next best thing is waiting nearly an hour to eat a croissant? Seriously?
    .
    The only line I’ll wait in is for a cronut, which I predict will inevitably disappoint me and end up being completely overrated. But I can’t resist.

  • The quintessential Houston line is held on Sundays at Breakfast Club, and that got old about 5 minutes into the experience. There are far too many great eateries in this town for us to waste our time standing in line at any one of them. The drive there takes long enough!!!

  • Takes just a minute in the line to realize how incredibly inefficient they are.

  • Awesome. While I’m no fan of standing in line (in fact I will not do it), the “youngs” mentioned in a previous post are happy to stand in line or whatever, since they are busy with dicking around on their phones anyway, completely oblivious and exclusive of the world around them. So much for that “chance encounter”…

  • I really hate it when strangers try to strike up a conversation with me in any situation……….

  • I’ve had a chance to visit both Common Bond and Killen’s BBQ in the past week………excellent food at both. At the very top of their games. But the lines……..I was struck by how a few changes in their service model could vastly improve the number of customers they serve per hour. More customers = more revenue. right? what am I missing?

  • If he has people waiting 45 minutes to buy his product, business must be good. Therefore, he should be making a profit. Time to invest in another cash register and hire another counter person or two. That should speed up the lines.

  • Standing in line to wait for things that are really good is such an Austin thing, that it was common in the major cities of the U.S. and abroad years before Aaron Franklin even opened a little trailer under the upper deck of I35. Welcome to 2004, Houston!

  • So the idea was for people to stand in line for 45 minutes and wait because it’s empowering to the community and gets people talking with each other and exchanging ideas?

    Every popular restaurant in Houston needs to jump right on that one.

    Remember than next time the hostess tells you there’s a 45 minute wait somewhere. It’s your chance to exchange with the other people waiting!

    Or in other words, what a crock!

  • If you manage to create a food (or other type that fit the model, I suppose) business that for whatever reason draws an abnoxiously long wait time, it sustains itself for at least a while because people that wait 45 minutes or more in line for something trendy (I’m looking at you Austin BBQ joints) are not likely to go against the inferred opinion of the herd they followed there to think that it is not The Greatest Thing Ever. Even better if they are the type to Instagram everything they eat, though I think that might have rounded the bend as a trend.

    Good marketing spin on it by the baker, but it is still spoken like an extrovert that sees such things as a positive experience, though the introverts among us would likely be repelled by such a line in the first place.

  • Semper Fudge and I see the same phenomenon, tough perhaps not through the same lens. The products of such places are probably good, though the Hipster Dogpile Effect™ disconnects the degree of quality from the quantity of demand.

  • One to 10 in “pedestrian life?” Pray tell what part of Houston this is in? West. and Dunlavy is one of the more prime spots for walkable urbanism in the city. Just because some fat slobs find the temperature a lot warmer than their Suburban and have roll sweat everytime they lift an arm doesn’t mean there aren’t people in Houston who don’t enjoy a good bike commute or weekend stroll through Montrose or Rice Village or City Centre or Woodlands Waterway/TC/whatever-it’s-called. Pretentious people like Common Bond are the people standing in the way of the “pedestrian” experience here in Houston; those who move to the inner loop because life is sOOooOOOoOOo ‘boring’ in the ‘burbs yet they use their car to take their garbage can to the end of the driveway because they don’t wanna get ‘sweaty.’ To those who pontificate about how Houston will never be a walkable city: whatever. It’s not walkable because you choose not to walk. The city is what you make of it so try a little harder.

    In addition:
    - pedestrian is also an adjective and makes for sometimes funny unintended messages
    - those waiting 45 miniutes in line to buy expensive baked goods is a very self selecting group of people around which I’d prefer not to surround myself

  • That’s so far from the truth. Example: I’ll often walk to Common Bond and the places around it. I assume many others in Montrose do the same.
    .
    Houston as a whole may not be walkable, but the area his business is in is very walkable.
    .
    For what it’s worth, that address is an 85, “Very Walkable”
    http://www.walkscore.com/score/1706-westheimer-rd-houston-tx-77027

  • ZAW “… the idea of long waits at good restaurants is not new in Houston. Ever go to Baby Barnaby’s on a weekend?”
    .
    Yes, and I’ve waited for a long time. And I have no problem doing so :) Luckily I have a job that allows me to go there during the week — which I do — a LOT :)

  • Rodrigo “The quintessential Houston line is held on Sundays at Breakfast Club, and that got old about 5 minutes into the experience”
    .
    Yup. And every time I walk by that place on the weekends, on my way to Tacos A Go Go, I wonder why they’d bother. There is much better foot 1 minute away. :)

  • The food is excellent. While not exactly the same, standing in line at Common Bond reminds me of the good old days of La Strada… Back when various tables would be pushed together because everyone was enjoying the same common experience. There’s no shame in that. It’s also a plus that Shannon, Commonsense, and a few others are adverse to it. Less chance the next conversation I have there will be with a hateful troll.

  • “If he has people waiting 45 minutes to buy his product, business must be good. Therefore, he should be making a profit. Time to invest in another cash register and hire another counter person or two. That should speed up the lines.”

    Uhhh not quite Shady Heightster. Biz may be profitable but there are already 2 cashiers and 4 people behind the counter and they are so slow and so unorganized and are quite content to talk amongst themselves rather than hunker down and work. The line is from a very poorly designed layout and operating system. The food is good and the decor is very nice. But a pastry chef does not an operations manager make.

  • Maybe if business is that great, and he is making money, he could afford to hire some extra counter help, add a register or two, and then cut down on the lines. But I guess he figures there is more hype to be had by having a line out the door.

  • I’ll wait until the newness wears off to try. I don’t wait in lines. Call me a snob, I don’t care, but I’m all for efficiency with my time and your business. Seeing a line coming out of the door for an establishment doesn’t makes me want to join. It just makes me think that the owner doesn’t know how to properly run a business or there are many people with too much time to waste.

  • every time a sane person sees the long line and walks away, this bs artist loses money. if his business sense was at the same level as (the hype surrounding) his bakery skills, he would quit coming up with flowery justifications and find a way to increase throughput man.

  • A la Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi, sounds like Houston’s found its Croissant Czar. Are there any odd ordering procedures to follow at Common Bond?

  • Hot damn! Sounds like this explanation is taking a page from the MoonTower Inn playbook!!!!

  • Most comments here presume that the long line is a problem for the owner to solve, but I suspect the owner thinks the line is the solution. He’s not selling croissants, he is selling being in line at the ‘in-the-know’ bakery. The line is the thing, without the line there is nothing.

  • I went to Common Bond on Wednesday near lunchtime and only had to wait five minutes. That said, I wouldn’t go near the place on the weekend. Also, unlike waiting in line at Baby Barnaby’s, CB’s wares are actually really great and not something I could easily make at home.

  • Just WALKED over — 2:00 PM. No line, but no croissants either. Saw enough, though, to see what an inept ordering system they have. Surprised the lines aren’t two hours long. Won’t be back.

  • I’ve got too much other stuff to do to spend time waiting in lines just in case I’ll have a wonderful chance encounter. Plus, the only people I would run into would probably have similar tastes to mine (since they are standing in the same line) and I’ve got enough of that already.

  • The wait for Common Bond doesn’t justify the wait. Sure there are items you can’t make at home but I don’t want to waste an hour in line. The worst part of waiting in line is seeing all the Asians flash their cameras through out the restaurant to commemorate their latest visit.

    One suggestion for CB would to have some cover over the patio facing Dunleavy. Its balls hot eating on that patio and having the sun in your face makes it worse.

  • I sure wish Austin would become cool again so we could send all the Austinites back home.

  • I’m sure the food is great, but really people. I can make a croissant in that time.

  • “I feel like waiting in line is like a thing now. I was just in Austin and everywhere people (youngs) were waiting in line – like insane long lines – for the most pedestrian things. The thing at the end of the line isn’t even what people are there for – they’re just there for the line.”

    So, this is what Austin is like now? Ridiculous traffic and long ass lines everywhere?

  • Add me to the list of the “no thanks to long lines” crowd. As others have noted, the only ones seemingly standing in that clusterflock are young people with lots of time to waste.
    .
    I guess a badge of honor for older people is that we’ve gained the wisdom to decline bad deals (e.g. lots of time for a croissant; the newest iPhone; siting in a 11th street parklet outside a mattress store).
    .
    In closing, I’d like to offer my approbation also to “The Breakfast Klub”. Overrated and not worth a second visit by me. So, in a way, I’ve given readers a two-fer in this post. And, you didn’t have to wait 45 minutes.

  • I might wait in line for a croissant if I were not vegan and it was as good as I got in Paris, but short of that, really?! But was is more sad about this post is that Houston could definitely become a walking city full of chance encounters if the city planners could vision a fully functional ell/lightrail system for the inner loop. A great star burst plan, with rays moving outward and connectors at the loop, with train or bus connections to go further….it would work fine and I would love to be able to have the chance encounters I have had in NYC, Boston, Paris….it is time for Houston to commit to functional public transportation.

  • People are always saying that our heat and humidity make Houston unwalkable – that’s nonsense. It’s 96 degrees and as humid as here in DC for the whole summer and people walk all over the place.

  • I do believe voluntarily waiting in lines is a thing. Older people have heard that, in a strange town, the best restaurant will be the one with the most cars out front.

    I’ll coin it now: The CLAP – Consensual Line Acceptance Phenomenon.
    Not kidding. Young people have grown up with their friends always available in electronic form. They carry them along wherever they go. But public mingling offers an outré experience of rubbing shoulders with the unknown (while have one’s comforting smart phone in hand.)

    It’s just a step – but an exciting one!
    Soon they’ll all go skydiving. Together. With a video of the event on their phones.

  • Exploiting the old supply-and-demand. A line suggests there is something scarce to be had. If you enjoy the experience, go for it – - but the wait actually makes it “less worth it”, rather than more….