A Tale of Two Coffee Shops: Java Love and Starbucks

Baristas Andrew Brown (left) and John Cozz (right) greet customers as they enter. (Meghna Maharishi / The School of the New York Times)

MONTCLAIR, N.J. — The new Java Love here, part of a small chain of three coffee shops, sits right across Church Street from a Starbucks, the national mega-chain with thousands and thousands of locations. But Java Love is holding its own, drawing some 500 customers a day.

“I think we manage to do so well because we roast our own coffee, and it is fair trade and organic,” said the store-manager, Jill Keats.

Montclair is also known for being a town friendly to small businesses. Major chains have a difficult time succeeding here.

“I think what makes Java Love so successful, other than the fact that our coffee is better than Starbuck’s, is the fact that people in this town want to take part in helping out a small business,” Keats added.

Java Love looks like the typical trendy coffee shop. It uses mason jars for iced coffees, has chalkboard art. The décor is modern with a vintage twist. The walls are a cozy maroon and a bright cream color. Right by the counter there is a chalkboard that lists all the barista picks for the season. There are shelves stacked with coffees of different roasts and mugs for sale. Other than the music quietly playing over the store’s speaker system, Java Love has a quiet atmosphere. Some customers sit alone, while others sip their coffee, work and continue their conversations.

Java Love’s Hotlist is a collection of drinks created by baristas each season. (Meghna Maharishi/The School of the New York Times)

Java Love, which first opened in 2011, and was founded by two Montclair residents, Jodie Dawson, 46, and Kristine Petrik, 48. Java Love started out as a side project, but it eventually blossomed into a full-scale business with three locations. Before Java Love, Dawson was a child psychologist and Petrik was a journalist. Dawson and Petrik both had the idea to try to open a coffee shop, but they did not know where to start. Eventually, Dawson and Petrik settled on opening a coffee shop in Bethel, New York, which is in the Catskills because it was a major tourist area, but it had no decent coffee shops.

“There was also a social aspect to opening a coffee shop in the Catskills,” Keats said, “it’s an impoverished area which only gets business during certain times of the year.”

Java Love managed to provide a steady flow of jobs and business in an impoverished area, and currently has 15 full-time employees. After opening up the shop in the Catskills, they decided to expand their business to Montclair, and eventually opened locations of Bellevue Avenue and Church Street.

Starbucks is one of the coffee giants in the world and both of Java Love’s locations in Montclair are right across from the coffee giant. While Java Love finds itself competing with one of the largest coffee chains in the world, it still manages to be successful. They have many devoted regulars and, there are even times when the lines at Java Love grow so long that people end up waiting outside for a cup of coffee. While the Church Street location is almost double the size of the small Bellevue location, Bellevue attracts more customers because it is the older location. The new Church Street location receives around 400–500 customers a day, and the Bellevue Avenue location receives around 1,000 customers a day.

Keats said that the secret is in freshness. Their beans are locally roasted in small batches and their commitment to using fresh, organic ingredients from coffee to food only adds to their appeal in Montclair. Java Love works with local, organic farms in order to have such fresh ingredients. Java Love also sells organic pastries, cookies and vegan bars.

In terms of plans for the future, Java Love intends to focus on their new Montclair location in the Church Street area.

“We are not currently looking to expand,” Keats said.

Although Java Love may not be expanding any time soon, they recently have started a wholesale business, which has also allowed them to make deals with other local Montclair business. Java Love also recently made a deal with the local Whole Foods, allowing Whole Foods to sell their coffee.

One of Java Love’s current goals is to get more involved with the Montclair community. With the holidays coming up, Java Love plans to have more live music and other performances in their store in order to promote more local artists. They also have created classes with the Montclair Adult School.

“We are trying to expand the business in a different way, without opening up more locations,” Keats said.