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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 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 i 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.

MB January 17, 2012 at 02:58 AM
I haven't been to the Java Dock in over a year. I was sick of standing in line at 7:30am with 8 people ahead of me while the LONE worker made specialty coffee drinks, handed out mugs, toasted/buttered bagels and handled money. All this while the owner sat in the lobby plunking on his laptop, watching the line grow. More than once I left coffee-less because the line didn't move (and neither did the owner!) In addition, the upstairs was filthy. I am looking foward to returning as a customer with a new owner and new employees.
Adam January 19, 2012 at 03:38 AM
We've frequently been the only customer in line and had it take 10, 15, 20 minutes to get a pair of drinks made. Nothing fancy, either. And even after all that time, they were still made poorly. We stopped frequenting both Java Dock and Smith Bros. in town because of the lack of consistency in the beverages from one visit to the next. Java Dock was usually the better-tasting drink when done correctly, but the amount of time it took was always completely, unacceptably unpredictable. So we can be downtown and still drive to Grafton for Starbucks or Alterra instead. As for the guy in the waiting area, we used to see him, too. Either on a phone (Blackberry?) or a laptop. I was never sure if he was the owner or not, but he was usually there, and seemed to have the run of the place. If he was in fact the owner, I am even more glad we stopped coming by, because the wait times could have been cut with even the smallest amount of his help and/or guidance. As for the upstairs, I never knew it even existed. Also, the place went "Sconuts" crazy; it seems like that became the priority instead of consistent coffee quality and good, efficient service. Whether we'll still keep trying at Java Dock remains to be seen. For us, now, it's basically become a place we know to avoid (along with Smith Bros), and shaking that will be difficult. Who knew we could have two coffee places in town and we'd still end up driving to the next town, often to a Starbucks of all places?
Nichole Kloss January 20, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Hey Friends! I am Nichole, the new operator of Java Dock. I've been a barista at this shop through thick and thin. We're (the newly developing staff and I) are in the process of rectifing this business. I'd ask you to give it another try. I am sure the place will feel much different than your last visit. Consistancy is a priority, as is the creativity of the staff. I think you'll be pleased and I'd love to know either way how your visit goes. Feedback is necessary! Take good care.
Neil A Rubble January 20, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Nichole. You've got a big task in front of you. The guy who "ran" it before you definitely did not know what he was doing. Please focus on the basics of running a coffee house. I'll give Java Dock another try...cross my fingers.
Nichole Kloss January 22, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Hey Neil. Thanks. So far, so good. Please feel free to stop by and drink a cup. Introduce yourself.....we can talk coffee or shop, it'll be fun.
Brian Carlson February 08, 2012 at 12:15 AM
People who have not run a business in a small town in a heavily stressed economy should walk lighter on those who try to. The comments from people who found my business, Java Dock Cafe, defective, have no idea what is involved, the problems that arise, the challenges nor the responsibilities I had at the shop as the owner or elsewhere. Your criticism is hurtful...as intended...so you succeed there. I was teaching three college courses while I owned the Dock and have placement of two pre-teen kids. For a year I was there at 4:30 making Sconuts....an idea to expand and make something novel in Port. Actually they went over very well. If I was sitting at a table at 7:30 when you arrived for coffee folks, I had already been three hours into my day and was probably either working on the books, taking care of the internet aspect of the business,or preparing for my classes, etc. I was not a barista and being a barista is not a matter of pouring some coffee. We could not afford to double staff the front end and be baking in the back at the same time. Its a small town...a small business. I hired fifteen people during my year and a half there...fifteen local people got paychecks from me. The Dock stayed alive during that time. Sorry for the bumps...but they were not produced by me. I dont profess to be an incredible owner/ restauranteur but I did work very hard to make the Dock work for this town. I risked what I had, trusted a lot of people and lost heavily.
Neil A Rubble February 10, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Hmmmm. Something doesn't add up here. You never worked behind the counter but instead made something called sconuts that went over very well. And then hired 15 people to staff a small coffee house........I don't have a MBA but think I know the reason you went under. Did you ever think about abandoning the 4:30 baking and working at the coffee house behind the counter? Would have cut your labor costs. And Sentry or Pick n' Save have tons of baked goods for sale. Most people that come to a coffee house want...wait for it, wait for it. COFFEE served quickly! And having the "recall Grotham" people stationed outside your coffee house 2 weekends in a row was not a good business move. A business should not try to be polictical.
Tom Hudson February 24, 2012 at 04:59 PM
For the record, Neil, the "Recall Grothman" people were not put there by Java Dock or Brian. In fact, they were hurting his business. But it was a public sidewalk, open to all -- nothing you can do about it unless they're creating a disturbance or blocking the right of way.
Tom Hudson February 24, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Another brief comment, more positive -- I've been a Java Dock customer since they first opened. In fact, I'm sitting here as I write this with a large mocha and apple muffin I picked up at the Dock from Nichole after shoveling snow this morning. JD has had its ups and downs through the years but the workers are always friendly and try to do their best despite limitations imposed by management and a tough economy. On another topic, Java Dock has been kind enough to let us use their upstairs area for our Monday night chess & Scrabble group for years now; it's a great place for small groups and I think it's cool that Java Dock has put itself into a position to be a community center of sorts. Last week we had 8 chess players and 4 Scrabble players from Port, Jackson, West Bend and Whitefish Bay!
Brian Carlson February 25, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Neil, you really have an axe to grind. You have no idea what the specific issues were at this shop, why key people left, or, evidently that I did work behind the counter when the situation got so bad that I couldn't hire baristas to cover all shifts. You also don't seem to know that there are many other jobs an owner is responsible for. I worked seven days a week at Java Dock or on Java dock business. As you attack all my blogs, is it safe to say that you just don't like me? The Grothmman episode, that had nothing to do with me, was one of the things that threw us into a spiral. As our customers ran the spectrum politically, many were offended and left when these people ascended and set up on a couple of Saturday's in our shop. I asked them to leave immediately upon finding them there but a lot of damage had been done. I also wrote a long letter to the ozaukee Press protesting people who would risk a businesses welfare, for their own personal political agenda. If you would like to discuss any of this personally instead of publicly, my number is listed or you may email me at Brian.Carlson@uwc.edu. I live in this town, have done nothing to dis-serve it and tried very hard to improve Java Dock. I lost my life savings in the effort, selling only the assets, not the business. Why broadcast your lack of knowledge in this issue and is your goal?
Brian Carlson February 25, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Rory, you say in the article that "Carlson declined to comment on his reasons for leaving the business." When you contacted me, I said I didn't want be interviewed on the topic but I did comment to you about some very specific points. I won't detail them here but as I live in this town as do my kids and the town, like many, sees rumors flying, in will say this: I didn't leave the business nor did I sell it. I sold the assets, ovens, fixtures, machines, pots, tables, etc. It is not under new management..it is a different company. This probably means nothing to most folks naturally..but, from a business standpoint, it is a very different thing.
Brian Carlson February 25, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I wish all businesses in Port Washington well and was happy to be one of the local business people for this time, challenges included.
Neil A Rubble February 28, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Most people go through life with blinders on. And don't take a hard look at themselves, their actions or words.
Nichole Kloss February 28, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Hey Neil, Every post I've seen left by you is unfortunate or depricating to others in some way shape or form. Who's wearing the blinders? I suggest taking them off and having a hard look in the mirror my friend.
Neil A Rubble March 02, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Nichole, What a naive and patronizing post. "my friend". Come on! Could you be more condescending. I'm very excited and happy to have the duluth trading company moving in and posted my happiness. I love the patch. I love a community type way to exchange information. I just don't want the patch to digress into some useless website where every idiot on the street posts their every thought that rolls around in their simpleton brain. Because no other website will post their useless, narcissistic meanderings. Don't confuse honesty with blinders. Here's another lesson, sweetie, don't slam your customers on the patch....otherwise you lose them.
Brian Carlson March 02, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Neil, I think you are posting every thought that rolls through your brain...and it does sound narcisssistic... You call it honesty...what then is your real issue with me? As far as I know, I have never met you in person. You seemed to have gotten some bad service at some point... why didnt you go to the management then? Why draw this out in a public forum that neither fixes your problem nor improves situations? Maybe you were a friend of someone who felt wronged by me.... I have no idea. Its a lot of venom for some substandard service and btw, I haven't gotten a lot of criticism from anyone else. We had a lot of loyal customers who realized we were having staffing challenges and were up against a tight economy...and who yet appreciated that we were there. You are bent on something...not sure what... but its become an exercise in pretty snippy bs if you ask me. I would watch the potential for slander as well. Its a free country but blasting someone verbally in public, if it effects their livli-hood, can become grounds for a lawsuit. I continue to live and work in this town and, to my knowledge, have never done anything wrong to you.
Neil A Rubble March 03, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Lawsuits? Seriously? After reading others reply to your comments on the Patch you better make it a class action lawsuit. I'll avoid your posts in the future. I fell into a trap: “Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” – Mark Twain
Brian Carlson March 03, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Yes... you finally figured it out. I am the town fool. Its a rather noble occupation with a long history. I didnt say I would sue you. I suggested that you think about launching verbal attacks on local businesses. You have always had the option to avoid my blogs and, in fact, promised me awhile back that you would. Hopefully, you are committed to this now.
Neil A Rubble March 03, 2012 at 08:50 PM
I will shut up and not comment on any of your many posts you feel the need to write daily about your unique thoughts on the world. You seem to really have a problem with rebuttals. All I ask is I have the last word on this thread. THEN I'M DONE FOREVER WITH YOUR POSTS". Let's see if you have the capacity to do this one small request.
Brian Carlson March 03, 2012 at 11:51 PM
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