Friday, June 10, 2011

Local Coffeehouse Goes Dark After Nine Months

Java Blues on LaVista Road has closed. Taking space in what had been the third location of Atlanta indie coffeehouse ChocoLaté Cafe, Java Blues opened August 17, 2010 and closed May 11, 2011, after about 9 months in business. I said it then, and I'll say it again now, it was foolish to attempt to open a similar concept in that space. There is simply not enough foot traffic or residents in the complex to support the business. It was a decent size and Java Blues added a number of food items to their main beverage menu and featured live entertainment, but that was not enough to keep the doors open.

I can't help but laugh a little at the video that was posted on their Facebook page where a customer calls their pizza "orgasmic" not once, but twice, in a short clip they shot in the eatery. It refers to Rudolph as a foodie and regular. While I'm no foodie, his description leads me to question his "foodie" status."

I'm not trying to be an ass here, just point out poor planning when I see it. Places like Starbucks and Subway are at times able to make it in less than ideal locations with as much, if not less traffic, but independent coffee houses, a totally different story. Given the closure of a very similar business, with two other locations and some brand equity in the area, how could Java Blues have hoped to achieve better results?

I'm hesitant to suggest something that would be good for the space given the size and recent failures. I don't live too far away but am not sure what the area needs per se, or what would do well. The vacant Happy Herman's and the late, lamented, Varsity Jr., are not far away. All would seem to present opportunities for some eatery or retailer. Ideas?

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8 comments:

Jenna said...

Thanks again for the scoop. The video is absolutely hilarious and a must watch for anyone who views this article and wants a good laugh.

Jenna said...

P.S. Forgot to mention that apparently this place has actually be closed since May 11th and no one even knew it until now!

Darin said...

I think there's a good lesson here for developers of similar mixed-used structures. Appropriate foot traffic for ground-level retail cannot be generated by the residents above the stores alone. That's simply not a big enough customer base when you're looking at a single multi-family residential building like this one that's located in a zone dominated by car traffic instead of pedestrians.

These mixed-use developments (and let me clearly state that I love them and hope to see more of them) need to be located next to something that can also generate foot traffic and not just, in the case of this otherwise car-centric Lavista/Cheshire spot, passing cars. In other words, they need to be located next to other similar developments.

You can't expect people who are in the frame of mind to park in vast surface lots in front of shopping centers to suddenly shift gears into urban-walkability mode in the middle of an outing. Someone shopping at Publix isn't going to walk through that parking lot and cross the traffic on Lavista to get a cup of coffee.

We've seen these failures over and over in Atlanta. Just look at the short life of the wonderful H&F bakery at the bottom of the Aramore building. Single-block, mixed-use developments plopped down as tiny walkable islands in the middle of largely car-centric areas will continue to provide a struggle for business owners at the ground level.

They need to be located adjacent to similarly walkable, pedestrian-friendly blocks so that businesses can benefit from crossover foot traffic.

Atlantan99 said...

@ Darin,

Well said. Thank you.

Jim ATL said...

How about credit to Cliff at Creative Loafing on this. You'd go nuts if he did the same thing to you.

Jim ATL said...

How about a hat-tip to CLIFF AT Creative Loafing. The closing was mentioned in his column online. You'd go nuts if he did this to you.

Atlantan99 said...

Hi Jim,

First, thank you for reading the blog. With regard to the above post, had I learned of the closure after seeing it on CL's site, I would be more than happy to credit Cliff for the lead, in this instance that is not the case. I myself noticed the closure weeks ago and forgot about it. As I live not far away, I observed the "Available" sign in the window yesterday afternoon and sent myself a reminder email to do a post about it. Today, reading Gravy Train on CL, I did notice Cliff's mention of the Java Blues closure yesterday. It is my MO to never repeat news from other media therefore had I known yesterday that he had noted their closure, I would not have bothered to publish my story. Also, I would add that CL mentions the opening of Cowlick's, a new concept from Big Game Brands, and gives me no credit. Though I was the first to report both the initial locations and the ownership, it's common knowledge by now and I don't feel like I deserve a plug each time its mentioned. I would say the same applies to Java Blues, it's been closed a month!

Thanks for the comment and for reading the blog.

Tim said...

Darin - I jumped down to the comments section to make this very same response. It's a huge shame that it has to be like this regarding urban retail - I lived down the street at Archstone for a year, now a bit further off Lindbergh, but never actually walked all the way to this coffee shop. (I did walk/bike to publix fairly frequently though)

Developers could really make a much bigger difference in helping new urbanist developments succeed if they worked together more, putting these in closer proximity...