The Story of Jeny's Java Joint
I have seen the world change in many ways in my 38 years on the planet. I was raised, as many American children were, to believe that slavery had come to an end a long time ago, that unethical business practices were eradicated due to unions and fair business laws protecting workers rights. Eventually my world view grew and I learned that outside of my country people did not reap the benefits of these positive business practices… and that unfortunately pretty much everything we bought in this country came from those countries that do not have the standards and the laws that we as Americans enjoy.
I could not turn a blind eye and simply buy into this unethical life style. I knew that the best vote in this country is the vote of the almighty dollar, and if I could be proud of the purchases I made, then that was a step in the right direction to better myself and the world.
“You must first change yourself, to change the world”
So I began buying Organic and Fair Trade, this was 16 years ago, when most people thought that organic meant “made from soy”, or “that’s just crazy dirty hippy stuff”. Most people at the time didn’t get it, but I didn’t care what people thought about me or my life choices. I knew that what I was doing was right, so I held tight to my convictions, and always choose ethical products over unethical ones in every industry.
But I think I’m getting ahead of myself…
When I was a little girl, I lived in Philadelphia. I spent every Sunday morning swimming at the Aquatic Club, and every Sunday evening visiting with my Grandmother Antoinette Ciliberti. Her house always smelled of the best freshly ground stove top brewed espresso. Her hugs were so strong you felt as though you would snap like a twig in her embrace. Her love for her family was just as strong as her coffee and she meant the world to me. The smell of freshly ground coffee being brewed transports me to that joyous memory of visiting her happy friendly loving home.
After my Grandmother had passed away, I found that sense again at the Rhino Bean Café on South Street (circa 1994), the smells took me back and I knew that this was what I wanted to spend my days doing… drinking great coffee and having friendly conversation with awesome people. Growing up in a house above my father’s TV repair shop I always knew that I too would one day own my own business. So it only made sense to me, at the age of 14, to know with all my heart that by the age of 25 I would be opening up a happy, friendly, loving, coffee house. I would open Jeny’s Java Joint, A place for friends and artists to meet and enjoy a cup of coffee over great conversation.
After 7 years of working in the food service industry and receiving barista training, an opportunity arised at a local book store (who was having money troubles) to open up a small coffee bar inside. Of course I jumped on it. Armed with my industry knowledge, my passion for coffee and a measly tax return, I knew I could make this happen. I scrounged together some used restaurant equipment and trashed picked furniture to make the cute little organic coffee bar that was Jeny’s Java Joint inside Broadsword Books. It was 2005, I was 25 years old.
After about a year the book store decided that it couldn’t hold on and chose to close, which meant the whole space at 529 Cinnaminson Avenue belonged to me. It was exciting and scary, but I knew that I could do it, even though my husband and I had just bought our first house we pulled our resources and filled up the space the best we could. We began hosting Music nights and Poetry Readings, we were the only place to get an Organic Fair Trade cup of coffee in Burlington county, but unfortunately this was at a time when very few people even understood what that meant. Happily we had our core following of bohemians and artsy types. I met so many amazing people in those years and made lifelong friends.
But in 2008 whole industries began to close, and many of our customers began losing their jobs. The economy took a nose dive; the TV called it “the great recession”, it was a very scary time… And on top of it I was pregnant with my second daughter. I was at a crossroads and knew I had to make a decision. I didn’t owe anyone a thing, if I closed then I knew I would break even and be perfectly fine. And so that is what I did. On October 15th 2008 I closed the doors to Jeny’s Java Joint and chose to focus on my family. Two weeks later I went into early labor with my special little angel Sophia, who was born with Down syndrome. I had made the right decision.
“Sometimes the act of letting go grants your wish far better then you could ever dream”
After two moves, a third child and 9 years later… I found myself at the Palmyra Pharmacy, I happened to look across the street and saw a “for rent” sign in the window at 529 Cinnaminson Avenue, my old shop. I always knew I wanted to open my store again, but I sort of figured it would wait till my kids were grown. After sleeping on it, I decided I wanted to open back up. So I pulled my resources and made it happen.
But this time, the world has changed… this time people are want organic and fair trade products, people are seeking it out. With the foodie movement, people finally understand what good coffee and good food is. People care to educate themselves on sustainability, eco-friendly and local products, safe farming practices, organic agriculture, supporting local business and the benefits of fair trade industries and farms. 15 years ago I had a website aimed at educating the public about the benefits of all of these things. This time I don’t need to, I sat back and watched the world bring about so many changes for good. I am so proud of what our society has become, so proud of what Palmyra has become and I know that change begins with us. Thank you for being apart of my journey, thank you for helping me make the world a better place.