Java Jar owners departing after quarter-century

Rhett Wilkinson/Torrington Telegram Left to right, Kris Brooks, Julie Haught and Patty Harmon, who are giving up ownership of The Java Jar after 24 years, said that they will miss each other and the customers.

Changing of the guard

TORRINGTON – Julie Haught was perhaps going to help out new owner Jamie Schaneman at The Java Jar Friday with the transition, and Patty Harmon told Schaneman to give her a call for the same purpose, but the two women, along with Kris Brooks, are indeed leaving The Java Jar after 24 years of owning it.

“I’m going to save money by not working here,” Harmon said jokingly as she headed out the building, having shown a thank you card to the former owners from associate vendor Montana Coffee Traders. Leaving the 21st and Main home of her longtime business will remove the temptation of shopping at neighboring businesses, she said.

Brooks, Harmon and Haught’s final day as owners was Halloween, with Schaneman taking over the following day.

“We’re rewiring,” Haught said. Haught is going to continue to work in the medical records department at Community Hospital.

“Your life never ends,” Harmon said. “Just taking another adventure.” 

Harmon is joining her husband in retirement.

“I’m staying here,” Brooks said. 

Brooks said she plans to continue at the coffee shop with new owner,  Schaneman.

Haught has needed to balance the hospital and coffee shop for 12 years. Harmon said her job got more complicated at the hospital.

“See, I’m the only one who gets to have fun!” Harmon said.

What will the women
miss the most?

“Having these two here,” Brooks said, referring to Haught and Harmon.

“I’m going to miss all the people,” Harmon said.

“I will miss the people,” Haught said.

When the three would meet as owners, they would talk about their weekends and families, engaging in what Haught described as “sharing sessions.”

“Sometimes, we didn’t get any work done,” Harmon said. “We just visited.”

“The three of us working together all complimented each other’s schedules,” Haught said.

Several groups come into the coffee shop, from knitting groups to “coffee ladies” and retired teachers.

“It keeps your hand in community activities, people, their lives,” Harmon said.

Brooks said “the staff has become family.”

“I’ve felt like their mother,” Harmon said.

Harmon also noted “babies who have grown up (in the shop) and then worked for us,” with Haught saying customers will be in the shop with their newborns.

Haught also noted the cards and plants they received from various individuals.

“It’s the place where people come home,” Harmon said of the shop. 

Haught noted that someone has asked about the shop being closed, concerned they could not get their Chinese chicken salad, which had been ranked in the top five in the state, by the Casper Star-Tribune.

The women were also at the shop on Friday, providing emotional support to Schaneman. Haught said the three decided to “lend a hand” to the new owner.

United by a diamond, the women have been helping to ensure a smooth transition of a shop that started when Harmon and Haught traveled to Montana for their boys’ baseball tournaments.

Before moving to the current location 4-1/2 years ago, the women talked about what moving would mean to them.

Harmon said the women confirmed 1-½ years ago they would begin and end the journey together, continuing a conversation they had when they started the business.

“It’s been really an adventure, that’s for sure,” Harmon said. “We couldn’t have done it without the Torrington community.”

Ownership of The Java Jar

Harmon was a stay-at-home mom, with her youngest going to kindergarten. Her husband asked if she was going to get a job. Haught had just sold a business and Harmon and Haught’s sons played baseball together. They had a regional tournament in Hamilton, Mont. 

There, the women came across a coffee shop – not nearly as popular in 1995, when the women saw the one in Big Sky Country.

Upon their return to Torrington, they asked Brooks, who played softball with them, if they would be interested in being partners.

“I was just working part-time for the city,” Brooks said. “They thought I needed a full-time job.”

“We just kicked around what we want to be when we grow up,” Haught said.

The women looked at all the empty buildings in Torrington and settled on 1940 Main St. in Torrington that would soon be available due to the relocation of the video store.

“What was our rent? $300 per month,” Haught said. “It was reasonable.”

“Of course, we thought it was a lot,” Harmon said

The women opened Java Jar in October 1995.

Being moms while owning the shop meant they closed when their kids had a baseball or softball game.

“So our hours were flexible,” Harmon said, saying that the customers “got it.”

“They had kids the same age, so they were all meeting us at the game,” Harmon said.

The biggest challenge to starting it in Haught’s mind was introducing an espresso bar to Torrington.

“And a lot of people having doubts that it would be successful,” Haught said. “And they expressed their thoughts to us – our banker even questioned if we would be successful.”

“Our banker even laughed at us as he gave us money,” Harmon said, noting that even Starbucks was a new phenomenon. Haught recalled people questioning if folks would pay as much as they do for a latte.

Asked if they could see the espresso-bar phenomenon coming, Haught said they knew it could work once they saw the little shop in Hamilton. She also noted that her family is self-employed, so they think about what could be a new business to start.

The women got instruction in Denver in August or September 1995 on how to run a coffee shop, including their introduction to the “Cadillac” of espresso machines. It would last nine years instead of three to four, they were told, and they were off.

“It was successful right off the bat,” Harmon said. 

The business didn’t come without caveats. One individual in the food service industry told the women to be prepared for lulls at different times in the year. 

“I think we’re yet to experience that,” Harmon said.

“I can remember celebrating our first Friday in business and we sold 17 chicken salads,” Haught said. “(Now), we sell over 70 chicken salads on Fridays.”

Haught cited “a match made in heaven” with local economic development, besides the need to remodel their old location or move. That’s why the women moved the shop to the current location at 2042 Main St. in Torrington.

Harmon said that economic development presented it to them as the shop being a “cornerstone” of the community.

“We were pretty popular at the time,” Harmon said. “We still are.”

“They say the best thing is location, location, location,” Harmon added. “The number one reason for our success is our location.”

So an old Ben Franklin store became a hub, with the shop in the front windows. 

“It was very nice to work on a blank canvas,” Harmon said. “It was super nice that Julie’s husband was the contractor in charge.”

Asked how the shop can survive in the age of Starbucks, Harmon argued that Starbucks has just three to four flavors, while The Java Jar has more than 50, including 35 sugar-free flavors.

“We have a huge variety,” Harmon said. 

“We really do talk about the coffee end of it constantly and that is our big calling card,” Haught said. “We offer really, really high-quality, nutritional food.”

Harmon said that the shop has acquired a lunch crowd and offers breakfast menus.

“And we do have one heck of a Chinese chicken salad,” Harmon said.

Harmon also attributed support from friends and family.

“They step in,” Haught said.

“Step in and step out,” Harmon said.

One regret is not having a set up a drive though, though Haught said it was not feasible to do on Main Street.

But the women had an answer.

“Delivery,” Haught said.

The shop also offers curbside service, Brooks said.

When Haught talked about her family thinking about what could be a new business to start, Brooks had a comment.

“Maybe there’s something else out there we need to do,” Brooks said.

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