Tacoma Urbanist

Dec. 27, 2007 at 12:33am

Java Bean Coffee Closes : Post Mortem Analysis Conducted

Java Bean Coffee House at 744 Market in downtown has closed.




Java Bean had a great space.  Tile.  Two whole walls of windows.  A ton of space.  New bathrooms.



Sad to see a small business shuttered in downtown Tacoma, especially an independently owned coffee shop.

The Beginning

The Java Bean was close to my work so I wanted it to succeed in a big way.

It had a key location downtown right across from City Hall with guaranteed exposure to hundreds of city employees and visitors.  The owners obviously spent a great deal on the tile work.  The location looked promising as it was right by new developments.

The Tacoma Blogosphere certainly gave Java Bean a boost and a honeymoon period.

On May 23, 2006 07:46, Exit 133 gave Java Bean a huge plug announcing their opening.

The Beginning of the End

Java Bean had insufficient and clinical lighting.  The TV killed any sense of an atmosphere. 

They never carried any whole milk which was is necessary to make a cappuccino even after requesting it over a 6 month period.  (They made one anyways with a combination of half and half and 2 percent.  Didn't work).

The Attempted Save

Initial reviews of Java been were restrained but still not very good.

On May 24th, 2006 at 2:55 p.m. Exit 133 founder Derek asked reviewers for some leeway for Java Bean to have some time to improve:

You know, they’ve almost been open two days. Give them a few weeks and then we’ll see if they apply what they’ve learned after opening. Little things like flow and how people want to use the space should become apparent. Where to put the sugar packets and milk so that customers and staff are more efficient should also be obvious

The End


Its hard to see a local business go down in the heart of downtown.  Yet, in the end, Java Bean had no discernable idenity and ended up being a poor imitation of a Starbucks. 

After struggling for over a year, Java Bean eventually closed going the way of Winfields.

Epilogue

Tacoma can always use more good restaurants and coffee shops.  However, unless you can produce something like Blackwater or Satellite right off, best not to try.   The bar is too high.

Did you make it do the Java Bean before it closed?  If so, what happended?  Were there other factors?

comments [14]  |  posted under coffee, tacoma, washington

Comments

by Jake on 12/27/2007 @ 1:36am
IMO massive amounts of tile flooring is uninviting. ( also see Europa in Proctor)

Marketing? Never saw anything. Not even a myspace. Doesn't every small shop downtown have a myspace?

I have friend that live in the Bridge and they chose Tully's over Java Bean.(same with city council members)

I think this was actually one of three Java Beans to close or atleast they were all for sale. The others are in the Lincoln International District and one in Seattle.

by intacoma on 12/27/2007 @ 6:32am
I'm going to have to agree with jake on the space issue, they had so much of it that it never felt special. It didnt feel local, they could have brought in some great local baristas with friends to get some regulars. Also that penis looking logo was hilarious

by intacoma on 12/27/2007 @ 6:33am
one reason I dont like going to one st helens is the big open space

by KevinFreitas on 12/27/2007 @ 6:43am
We attempted to go in there a couple times but their hours didn't allow it. I know it can be a struggle (as Derek pointed out) but there's a mysterious formula to running a successful business especially when it comes to food and/or drink. If I'm turned off once by the place I may never return.

In the case of Java Bean, I was shunned by them being close when I thought they should be open so I never gave them another chance. Erik's right -- with so many other choices that might fit the bill spots like this have to stand out in at least some way or they'll fail. We don't have the density of residents downtown just yet to command a need for even decent shops combined with proximity.

by Erik on 12/27/2007 @ 11:49am
I'm going to have to agree with jake on the space issue, they had so much of it that it never felt special

Yes, this has been a problem with a number of different businesses. Too big of space makes everyone scared to go in. No one likes to walk into a big empty restautant. Satellite will never have this problem.

They were not really close to making it, several things were missing to make it really go. Lighting, service, space, atmosphere, design, coffee.....

The question for coffee shops is : why should people go to your place when they could go to Starbucks? One better have a good answer and more than just "buy local."

There has been talk of the merchants having a consulting group for small businesses starting up where frank confidential feedback can be given as to business plans and to existing businesses.

by Jake on 12/27/2007 @ 12:26pm
One Heart Cafe on Broadway is also said to be closed. Whats the story?

by Erik on 12/27/2007 @ 12:32pm
One Heart Cafe on Broadway is also said to be closed. Whats the story?

The lease for the entire space, including the art gallery in back. I think it was too much for them to take or sign up for. I think SOTA will take over the whole lease.

The One Heart by the Grand is doing ok though.

by andrew.austin on 12/27/2007 @ 2:22pm
A coffee shop with no whole milk...seems like the heart of the problem right there...crazy.

by jcbetty on 12/27/2007 @ 8:12pm
heh. I've said, often: a good business plan in Tacoma includes a small space. Intimate, in Tacoma, is good. Satellite, Monsoon, Babblin' Babs: even as the place has minimal customers, it appears crackin'. People wanna know, ooooh, what's going on. It's the whole, nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd syndrome.

I think, for me, Java Bean lost me with the whole "WIFI!" (not free) (the same way Starbucks will never see me hangin' in their seats.) -- is free Wifi worth the cost? As a non business owner, dunno, but as a customer who will pay $5 for a latte I can make at home for free, just to escape the home to get into someone else's ambience, I know that free (for cost of coffee) and ambience are valuable.

by Erik on 12/28/2007 @ 11:51pm
I think, for me, Java Bean lost me with the whole "WIFI!" (not free)

Yeah. The idea of a "Cyber Cafe was overblown. A few years ago, everyone thought that people would be willing to pay for computer use at a coffee shop. It turned out that people wanted their own computer.

One Heart Cafe, however, has 4 high speed computers that actually work for free which certainly attracts people. I don't know if it is worth it though as that isa pretty high cost.

by izenmania on 12/29/2007 @ 9:36am
just to escape the home to get into someone else's ambience

Which of course requires there to actually be ambience which is, as mentioned, kind of killed by giant wide-open spaces and fluorescent lighting.

by Twisty on 12/30/2007 @ 7:29am
744 Market is the 'heart of downtown'? Hardly.

You can pick apart the ambiance of the establishment all you want, but the root cause of JB's failure was its poor location.


by Erik on 12/30/2007 @ 11:54am
You can pick apart the ambiance of the establishment all you want, but the root cause of JB's failure was its poor location.

Really? Blackwater and Mandolin both seem more geographically remote to me. JB was right outside city hall itself.

by morgan on 12/30/2007 @ 3:18pm
I agree with what's already been stated, but have to wonder if there wasn't more going on here. I thought it was odd that their Lincoln District location closed at the same time. While fluorescent lighting can never be anything other than evil, the business closures could have also been the result from an illness in the family or a host of other things we will never know.