New Ownership Stirs Things Up at Local Coffee Shop
Java Dock's new management hope to make a few changes, including expanded hours, additions to the menu and more.
Thanks to a last-minute rescue by the owner of the building Java Dock inhabits, the coffee shop will stay open with the same name on the sign — but with new ownership and new employees.
Gertjan van den Broek, the owner of the building at 116 W. Grand Ave., said former owner Brian Carlson told him on Dec. 31 that he could not come to an agreement with several interested buyers and would be closing the business, which would be liquidated.
In order to avoid losing the business, van den Broeck — who also owned Java Dock from 2007 to 2010 — decided the same day to buy the assets of the business, thinking someone might later buy the business from him.
"The business would have closed otherwise," van den Broeck said. "If one can prevent a business from closing, one obviously wants to do that."
Carlson decline to comment on his decision to leave the business.
Without seeing any interest come forward, van den Broeck is now ready to run the business, with the help of manager Nichole Kloss, who previously worked at Java Dock on and off for the past six years.
"Now we have to focus on getting the business running well again," van den Broeck said. "I look forward to a healthy, viable business, where we have service with a smile, and people from the community can come to meet."
- Van den Broek is also in the midst of a proposal to save the former M&I buildings from demolition as part of an organization called Renew Port Holdings. His are ideas are set to be considered by the Port Washington Common Council and Plan Commission this week.
Van den Broek and Kloss both have long-term visions for the space as a community gathering place. With a fresh coat of paint in progress, art from local Catholic schools on its way for the walls and solar power coming to the roof, the new business has a new look and a new staff, too, with none of the most recent employees returning.
However, most of the new employees are not entirely new to the Java Dock. Sara McManus, who has worked at Java Dock intermittently since she was 16 and a student at Port Washington High School, is one.
"You want to come somewhere where people smile and remember you," McManus said. "I like meeting people where they’re at. If someone’s having a great day, you can elevate to their level."
Former baker Ann Green will also be back, making homemade bakery at Java Dock, replacing the bakery they were getting from Alterra. Kloss said she would also like to incorporate produce from local farms, expand the menu and eventually offer more gluten-free options.
"Good, clean everything is the goal," Kloss said.
Kloss said they would also like to lengthen the hours to be 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., but that won’t happen until the business gets its footing and is ready to expand.
"The difference from Starbucks is we’re not just trying to get people in and out," Kloss said. "People are here to enjoy themselves."
To encourage community involvement, Kloss hopes to rent out the upstairs for events, activities and meetings; and host her own events with local musicians or collaborating with other businesses.
"I like the idea of this place as a place to meet and share ideas," Kloss said. "That’s my hope for this business. My real job, as I see it, is developing connections for people and helping the community grow."
"We’re not just people who make your coffee; we’re here to be your community too," McManus added.
Regular customer Lindy Couwenhoven, now a student at UW-Madison, said she already enjoys the café as a place to gather and looks forward to more years there.
As a senior at Port Washington High School, Couwenhoven said she would have "Java Dock Fridays" with her two best friends so they could catch up on the week. Now, it’s her first destination when she comes home for breaks.
"It's so nice to see a friendly face when you walk in, and someone who genuinely wants to know how you're doing," Couwenhoven said.