So Long, And Thanks For All The Coffee.

Every possession and every happiness is but lent by chance for an uncertain time, and may therefore be demanded back the next hour.

-Schopenhauer

Some of my best ideas come to me in coffee shops. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe it’s the change of scenery, although I’ve had those best ideas in coffee shops I know well. Maybe it’s the combination of the familiar and the strange—the constant interruptions of people coming and going. Once while I was writing a story in a coffee shop, a story that wasn’t going that well and that I was only writing down to get it out of my head, a woman asked me, “Are you journaling?” I said yes and we talked for a minute and then she got her latte and left. Then as I went back to writing the story took a weird turn and became so much better. Don’t knock the person from Porlock, but that’s another story. Or maybe it’s because I’ve had some good ideas in coffee shops and those have just happened to foster other good ideas.

I also prefer local coffee shops. They all have some features in common but every one is unique, too—unlike those chain places that you find everywhere. So I’m sad that one of my favorite coffee shops, JJ’s Market, closed December 22nd, 2018.

JJ’s has been around since 1971—almost as long as I’ve been alive. When the Noshville Delicatessen next door, a more recent arrival, closed and a developer wanted to raze the block the owner of JJ’s went to court. His lease, after all, was good through 2022. That was a few years ago, but when I talked to the owner he said a lot of circumstances meant he had to close. The leaky roof would cost $100,000 to fix, and JJ’s was the last tenant on a block in an area where new buildings, and prices, are going up. The midtown area of Nashville used to be a funky place with bars and coffee shops, but thanks to gentrification it’s rapidly getting defunked. In spite of JJ’s being just a block away from a major chain coffee shop, not to mention a chain that specializes in pastries and, just one block over, a chain bagel place, it remained popular and crowded. Some mornings there I listened in on business meetings with four people in suits, and it tickled me to think high-powered deals were being made at JJ’s funky, wobbly tables and overstuffed sofas. The leaky roof with exposed ductwork and the bare brick walls added to the charm. Once I overheard a musician talking to an agent—and being around creative people might be another reason I get good ideas in coffee shops. People left books lying on tables or in the bookcase by the register, where there was also a selection of board games.

JJ’s was more than just a coffee shop. You could even say it was world famous, included in Ariel Rubinstein’s Atlas Of Cafes. The front section had coolers with a wide selection of craft beers. You could also get some local brews on tap, or fill a growler to go. They had a selection of European chocolates, magazines, Japanese snack foods, and ceramic mugs made by a local artist. And there’s something really funny about a place with its own specialty coffees called “Studying Nietzsche” and “James Brown”.

Companies like WeWork are creating workspaces for people who want to get away from the traditional office, and hotels are redesigning their lobbies to be community hangouts, but JJ’s created a community space decades before just by being what the community wanted.

A poem literally stamped into one of the tables ends, “You are marvelous./The gods want to twilight/in you.”

It’s a sad but fitting epitaph for a coffee shop that was part of the community, was even a community unto itself, for almost half a century.

Hail and farewell, JJ’s Market.

 

10 Comments

  1. Red

    That is sad. I love local roasteries and always choose them over the chains when possible.
    Thankfully, I now live in a country with local coffee shops on every corner, and the coffee is FANTASTIC!

    I hope something good comes up in its place.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Someday I hope to visit Vietnam but in the meantime there’s a large Vietnamese community in Nashville and the restaurants are a great place to get coffee.
      And even though JJ’s is going away there are a number of local coffee places here–enough that no one should ever have to go to one of the chains.

      Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    I’m always sad when good things go away, Chris. Thank goodness you keep making a wonderful space for all of us here.

    So long for today, and I hope we can meet in person in some wonderful Nashville or Boston (or somewhere in-between) space some day.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      As best I can I try to preserve the good things, and I too hope we can meet in person someday, perhaps in Boston where there’s so much to see, or in Nashville, where there’s so much to do, or perhaps even in Edinburgh, where every year there’s a great event that brings together so much to see and do.

      Reply
  3. Jay

    Merry Christmas!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Merry (very belated) Christmas to you! Although I don’t think it’s too early to hope that next year’s Christmas will be merry too.

      Reply
  4. the orangutan librarian

    I really prefer local coffee shops as well- chains are never quite the same. So I’m sorry to hear about your favourite one closing down!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Fortunately there are some other local coffee shops still around, mostly because they offer that special something that the chains try to copy but can never quite manage to offer. And if anyone tries to close those down I plan to camp out in front of them and say, “This is a local shop for local people, there’s nothing for you here!”

      Reply
  5. Allison

    I did not know that. I haven’t been over that way since Noshville closed, though.

    Damn. Katy K’s, JJ’s, Grimey’s had to move… if Pizza Perfect goes, I will freak out.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s really scary how much Nashville is changing. Although I am glad Grimey’s just had to move–it really is famous. I read an interview with the music director for several Wes Anderson films who said it’s where he goes every time he’s in Nashville. If he has any taste he hits Pizza Perfect too.

      Reply

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