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Java Joe becoming king of valley coffeehouses

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Business must be good for Joe McDonald to open yet another coffee shop, this time in Glenwood Springs. McDonald also has Java Joe’s shops in Carbondale and Basalt and another he opened a scant few months ago next to the Thunder River Market at the CMC turnoff on Highway 82.

The Glenwood coffeehouse opened its doors last week.

The new shop is located on the south end of the Grand Avenue bridge, next to the Texaco station.



But it’s not that business is booming for McDonald. Rather, more shops attract more customers.

“This type of business is volume. You can’t make it with one or two stores,” McDonald said.



He’s been eyeing the Glenwood spot for a couple of years and when it came open he jumped at it.

The store is tucked beside the gas station and the strip of shops along Sixth Street that includes Sioux Villa Curios, a liquor store and a new pawn shop as well as the New To You Shop.

The interior of the new coffeehouse, which lately was a nail salon, sports vibrant yellow and deep plum walls. As with his other shops, there are comfortable couches and armchairs and the beginnings of a library.

The location is near the Hot Springs Pool and the motels on the north side of town.

“I like it because it’s on this side of the bridge and there’s not a lot of coffee businesses here. You have to go across the bridge for it. And it’s so close to the pool and the motels,” he said.

There are two parking spaces in front of the shop and a few on the side of the gas station.

“The spaces don’t get held up. People are in and out of there. It’s easy to pull in.”

Besides the tourist trade, he’s also aiming at the daily commuters who pass by on their way to work. Hours are 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The menu includes the traditional espresso, cappuccino and latte, along with sandwiches, bagels, chai, shakes, floats, smoothies and Italian-flavored sodas.

McDonald opened his first coffee shop in 1995 in El Jebel’s Orchard Plaza but soon found the competition rough going.

“The rent was outrageous, as was the competition,” he said. “I couldn’t serve bagels because of Bagel Bites next door. I opened the Carbondale store out of desperation.”

Java Joe’s in Carbondale, opened in 1996, is a mainstay of Main Street. It’s the go-to place for morning coffee. Since opening that shop he closed the El Jebel shop and transferred it to Midland Avenue in Basalt.

McDonald, who is a native of Scotland, grew up in southern California and in 1994 came to the valley, where he worked as a plumber and in construction.

“I’d spent a lot of time in coffeehouses in California and always dreamed of having one. In 1994 there were none between Glenwood and Aspen,” he said. “I didn’t know a thing about coffee.”

But he’s learned. He knows what people want: a good cup of coffee and a comfortable place to relax. In Carbondale the shop is in a wing of the historic Dinkel building. The walls of the front room are original brick adorned with the work of local artists and the back room is furnished with comfortable couches, large tables and wall-to-wall bookshelves.

People use it for business meetings, to relax with friends or to catch up on the newspapers.

He knows the morning workers who come in for a to-go cup want to get in and out fast.

“It’s frustrating; people want the convenience of fast food and the quality of custom-made. Everything we make is fresh to order. We do our best to make it the way they want as fast as we can,” McDonald said.

For the future, he’s considering offering Internet service and possibly beer and wine on weekends.

“That’s the beauty of not being a franchise; we can evolve” without restrictions.

Despite the obvious challenges, he has loyal customers who are now good friends.

“I’ve made a lot of friends, about 90 percent of my friends are people I met in the coffee shop. I thank our loyal following over the years and the great staff. They’ve made it all possible,” he said.


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