The energy surrounding the streets of downtown Farmington is contagious. The heartbeat of this town is steady with an upbeat, continuous rhythm and this cafe is among many unique places on Columbia St. that create and maintain this authentic sense of community and connection.
Walking into this downtown cafe, on the corner of Columbia and Jackson streets (ahem, ColJac, get it?) we were met with tantalizing smells of fresh baked bread and pastries; as well as warm coffee and lattes. The open entry with bar-stool seating in front of floor-to-ceiling windows give you a great view of Columbia St., and you’ll find a cozy dining area on the side for relaxed meals and coffee dates.
Davy and I had a chance to sit down in this dining space with the owners and operators of ColJac. Jake and Jessica are a brother/sister team with a vision of bringing people back downtown, serving really great coffee, and hand-making quality food.
Having both been raised with rural roots here in the Parkland, there was always this permeating idea that young people need to go away from the small towns as soon as possible, get a degree and get a job somewhere else in a bigger town. As teens, Jake and Jessica got experience working at Holy Grounds coffee shop (previously on Columbia St.) and had a strong connection to downtown Farmington. After that, they both moved to St. Louis to pursue their different college educations.
Jessica finished culinary school and moved back closer to home, and when Jake would come home for the weekends, he said there would be mounds of gourmet, experimental, home-baked goodness to eat. Sounds like a problem every college guy dreams of.
With their past experience and fond memories of working in coffee shops, then experiencing life in St. Louis, and the consistent overabundance of baked goods Jessica made; the idea to open their own bakery and coffee shop was only natural. Downtown Farmington was their first location choice.
Jake shared that they opened the shop just two “Country Day’s” ago (As in, they opened the weekend of Farmington Country Days 2015) and he was still finishing law school. A month after opening, Jessica welcomed her second child in the world and was back in the cafe working and baking just a couple weeks after her daughter Jaden made her debut.
With a degree as a pastry chef, Jessica bakes all the bread for their sandwiches fresh from scratch. She also creates all the fancy baked goods that are available there. This is quite a feat in the shop’s tiny galley-type kitchen space with only two small ovens. Jessica shared that a major challenge when renovating the old building before they opened was designing a workable kitchen space in such a small place.
Being very close in age (only 10 months apart), Jessica and Jake personify a typical brother/sister relationship. They may have different ideas and sometimes butt-heads, having the freedom to say exactly what they think. Still, they have the same underlying values and ultimately a common goal and vision for the idea of ColJac Artisan Cafe as a local business; spurring each other on to not give up on that vision. Jake shared, chuckling, “We’ll have really overly passionate conversations about what kind of music to play in the shop,” as he gave examples of just one of many topics that they discuss as business owners.
Some of the challenges that they have experienced are balancing convenience and quality. They shared how it was kind of chaotic at the start. With investors having different ideas of the vision for the cafe, it made it tough to really define their own flavor and style. Now, with a couple years under their belt, they have a distinct local vibe that they take a lot of pride in.
Jake shared that they want to bring back the coffee shops of 200+ of years ago. He talked about how when the coffee bean was introduced to the western world it caught on fast and coffee shops began opening up all over. “There were actually groups of women that protested coffee shops back in the day, like a coffee prohibition, cause they said the men would get together, drink coffee and get rowdy”, Jake laughed, then went on, “coffee shops were where conversations sparked political revolutions. We want to continue that conversation here”. He glanced at his sister then back to us and said, “we’re kind of rebels”, he said with a smile.
They hope that they can inspire other young people to follow their dreams and open a business in their hometown. Advice they would give is to not let anyone deter your vision for what you aspire to do. Create a business plan and then just do it. Strive for quality; don’t settle for second-rate. You won’t make everyone happy, so just do the best you can and keep your head up.
The next time you’re in Farmington, head down to the corner of Columbia and Jackson; grab a coffee and sandwich with a friend, silence that cell phone and enjoy some real face time. Let Jessica and Jake know you read about them on Parkland Hub.
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