Java Owl Coffee House set to relocate
When the Java Owl Coffee House opened in Nassau Bay in November of 2019, owners John and Ginger Wilkinson knew their new home would only be temporary. With plans well underway to level Nassau Bay Village, to afford room for Houston Methodist's campus expansion, the time has come for John and Ginger to take something that has been so special to so many and move it a few blocks.
I somehow managed to accomplish the Herculean task of getting John to actually sit for just over 6 minutes, to share the story of what has happened and what is happening at the Java Owl Coffee House. We started at the beginning, with the current location.
“We knew immediately that this was the building we wanted to move into. We had such high hopes for it. It's been here such a long time. The first drain of energy and life or hope we had for this location, came when we first inquired about a possible lease and the Real Estate agent said they were not interested in leasing space in the building, as they were tearing it down in a year.”
Undeterred, John conveyed his idea for the space and soon, there was interest in doing something short-term. John, a Realtor himself, knew that this interest meant tough decisions had to be made. John and Ginger had long since decided that the Java Owl Coffee House would be located in Nassau Bay. They felt strongly that Nassau Bay would embrace their idea of Care. Community. Coffee. With that in mind, the reality of finding a location that fit both their budget and vision, kept steering them to that end space in Nassau Bay Village.
“Once we decided on Nassau Bay as the place to reintroduce the Coffee House concept and feeling, we thought, what better place than a building that looks like it was always meant to have a Coffee House in it? It's part of history, part of the community that has been here so long.”
That part of the decision was easy. The hard part was knowing a big move was just a year away.
Depending on how you look at it, the opportunity or the challenge was clear. The Java Owl Coffee House would have 1 year to build a business, a brand and a Community, in the hope that they would follow them, wherever fate would take them.
To say they have done that, would be a huge understatement. The place is never empty. During peek times, the quick moving line extends to the door. They manage to keep things moving briskly, by staffing enough Baristas to provide outstanding and detailed service, without ever sacrificing quality for speed. Each drink has only one-size. The perfect size for that particular drink. To go bigger or smaller, would be at the expense of getting it just right.
I asked John to look back and try to sum up what they have built over the last year. He took a minute to formulate his answer.
“Oh, that's a good question. I think we built a place the community can call their own. Take ownership in it. Not from a business aspect, but more of a social aspect. Coffee Houses have always been a communal place, even hearkening back to the Beatnik days. People came for music and drink, but it was also a place where people could shout across the room to say hello to someone that just walked in. Friends and strangers alike. They felt like they were home, when they weren't. I think we really created that in Nassau Bay.”
He's not alone in thinking that. The sheer number of Java Owl “regulars” is astounding. Rhiannon Negron, C.O.O. and C.R.M. of Provident Oak Financial LLC. Has made this simple Coffee House an important part of her life and business.
“Java Owl is truly where I learned all about Community. It's more than just a place to meet clients or friends, to chat over coffee. It's also a place to host a fundraiser for someone in our Community battling cancer. It's a place local artists can proudly display their work. It's a place that will open their doors on off days to host a Community event. That is what truly sets them apart. They genuinely care about the people that make up our Community.”
Jonathan Cottrell, Broker at Cottrell Realty echoed the sentiment. "The Java Owl has become a place for business, friendships, family and great memories. I make a point to be there at least once a week. Outstanding coffee and ambiance. I'm looking forward to continuing that in their new location."
Now, the time has come to prepare to say goodbye to the original location.
The Java Owl Coffee House will be moving to 1354 NASA Parkway.
“Ironically, we are not going to be on NASA Parkway, but the front part of the building is. We are actually in the back, facing the Community and that's perfect, because we feel like that makes us even more focused on the Community, which has always been our goal. To be a little obscure. A little off the beaten path.”
The final day of business in the original location will be Saturday, December 19th.
Care. Community Coffee. is about to turn into Care. Community. Construction.
“We are working with contractors now. Several of them are customers that I didn't even know last year. The biggest thing right now is to get the main construction work out of the way. Once that's done, we can get a look at things and see how we can bring the feeling of our Coffee House to what currently amounts to a rectangle space.”
Their goal is to only be closed for 2 or 3 weeks and open the new location in mid-January.
The City of Nassau Bay has been very supportive with not just this transition, but the business itself. John is quick to point that out. “City Officials have embraced and supported our efforts to provide Care, Community and Coffee during every phase of growth. We are overwhelmed by their support and appreciate each day we are able to show it.”
Finally, I asked John to look back on what the support of the Community has meant to him. During the time they were closed to indoor service, it was quite common to see the parking lot filled with camping chairs. The Java Owl faithful would not be denied their coffee or the opportunity to support their favorite Coffee House. At this point, you can clearly see on his face how much it has meant to him.
“Thank you. The first year has been very overwhelming. It means so much to my wife and I, as well as the Baristas. You all are truly our family. You are the reason we are here. We want to share this transitional growth with all of you. Please follow us on Facebook and Instagram. I plan on posting pretty much daily on the progress. We want to share this exciting time with all of you. Feel free to come by anytime and see how things are progressing. To be honest, we already have people doing it and that kind of Community investment means the world to us.”