JavaStop has been a fixture in Longmont’s once Imperial Hotel building at the corner of Third Avenue and Main Street since 1992. Through more than half a dozen owners, the cozy coffee shop has seen Longmont grow and change. Emily and Kurt Collins are proud to be the new owners and they’re in it for the long haul.
On June 9, the couple had a quiet celebration for their regulars. Minimal announcement, just some appreciation for their customers to help them get through. JavaStop offered free cookies with purchase and held a small raffle. All the raffle prizes went to regular customers, including the mailman.
“We had so many businesses downtown donate to our raffle, which was so nice,” Emily Collins said. “So much more than we had hoped for, we didn’t really go out and ask.”
Doug Gaddy of Absolute Vinyl Records & Stereo, a few doors north of JavaStop, dropped by to play some music during the festivities. Gaddy struck up a fast friendship with the Collinses when they took over JavaStop, relishing his Sunday chai tea and chocolate croissant every week.
“I was just spinning some records, it wasn’t terribly formal,” Gaddy said. “I was shocked at the number of people that declined free cookies.”
According to Kurt, they’ll make the anniversary celebration a regular thing.
The Collinses took over when the previous owners were ready to call it quits, facing health and finance issues that made continuing JavaStop an unlikely prospect.
“We decided we should buy it,” Emily Collins said. “It’s the oldest cafe in Longmont, it’s been here so long and has such a regular following, in this old historic building. If JavaStop did close, you couldn’t recreate it somewhere else. We had to buy it.”
The transfer of ownership took place in the middle of the pandemic, but the Collinses officially took over in June 2020. Kurt had a culinary background, working in restaurants and catering operations. Emily had worked in medical administration prior to running the cafe. For both of them owning the cafe has been a learning curve, but one worth it thanks to the community already present in JavaStop, according to the Collinses.
Strider Bensten has been a regular at JavaStop for 18 years, making it a frequent stop during the week.
“It’s always been very homey, even more so since Kurt and Emily took over,” Bensten said.
Taking over JavaStop during the pandemic was a blessing and a curse for the pair. Business was slow, and with indoor seating restrictions it didn’t get easier.
“The numbers were stressful for me, I was aware of how much of a percentage we needed to increase and what we needed to make,” Kurt Collins said. “We were breaking even right up until the second shutdown, and that set us back months.”
Without a drive-through window or more space for outdoor seating, the restrictions on seating made operations precarious for a while.
“Not having a drive through was super hard for us when we were takeout only. Who’s going to park downtown, walk over, wait for their coffee, walk back? That was hard for us,” Emily Collins said.
Still, they stuck it out and the Collinses survived with the help of JavaStop regulars, and even fans of the shop from out of town that just wanted to make sure the cafe was still around, according to the Collinses. JavaStop’s original owner, Lynn Crenshaw, even put in an order online — things easily shipped like whole bean coffee and mugs.
“We didn’t know who she was until months later, and she’d been ordering just to help us stay open,” Kurt Collins said.
Hope Levine and her husband moved to Longmont a year ago, around the same time the new ownership took over. Levine took to the spot, calling it her island in the middle of the pandemic.
“We found it and kept coming back over the last year,” Levine said. “It’s just a wonderful, calm and happy place. Both of the owners are just terrific.”
The pandemic wasn’t the only problem when they took over. Nearly all equipment was in a state of disrepair or wasn’t commercial-grade. While the couple worked to repair and replace what they could, their regulars took it in stride.
“There’s just been this non-stop outpouring of generosity,” Kurt Collins said.
“We’ve had days where the grill has broken down, or we couldn’t cook their breakfast burrito and they’d still tip us with a ten,” Emily Collins said. “I know they were doing it to keep local businesses open. The whole 'shop-local movement from the beginning of the pandemic was really helpful. That mattered to a lot of people.”
Kurt Collins also took the opportunity to revamp the menu, bringing in more fresh ingredients and cooking items to order instead of using the microwave. Even the pastries are made in house, with the exception of their gluten-free offerings, which come from Aime’s Love — a gluten-free bakery a few doors north on Main Street.
“I wanted to bring in more attention to the details, instead of just putting out an end product,” Kurt Collins said. “I pay a lot more attention to what it’s going to be like at the end of the meal. I want it to be good all the way through. And I really can’t microwave an egg and feel good about myself.”
Some of the long-time regulars took a little while to warm to the changes. Some long-standing traditions like bottomless coffee had to go for financial reasons, which was met with frustrations for the Collinses.
“A lot of them were resistant to change because they’re worried you’re going to change too much and mess up JavaStop,” Emily Collins said. “You have to work a little harder to win them over.”
They inherited the coffee roaster along with the business, Longmont-based Mark’s Coffee. That wound up being the secret to gaining the affections of the established patrons.
“We kept the roaster but changed up the coffee we used for the espresso. We got some really positive feedback from that,” Emily Collins said. “I think that helped some of the regulars trust us more, see that some changes were good.”
Coming out of the pandemic, the Collinses are confident in the future of JavaStop. There are plans to refine the menu some more, adding more variety and specialty pastries. Hiring more staff will be a priority as well.
“We’re ready to bring JavaStop out of its ten-year hibernation,” Kurt Collins said. “I think we can do a lot more with it, bring more of the community here and give back too.”