10 years ago, Jodie Dawson and Kristine-Ellis Petrik visited the Catskills together. Unable to get a decent cup of coffee anywhere but the local gas station, the couple decided to open their own small coffee shop in the area. They called it Java Love, never expecting it to grow into anything more than that.
“People would come from Brooklyn and say it was the best coffee they ever had,” says Dawson. “We were like, ‘You have so much coffee in Brooklyn, what are you doing over here?’”
After realizing they were onto something special, Dawson, a clinical psychologist, and Petrik, a CNN journalist, “tripped, stumbled and fell,” as Dawson says, into entrepreneurship. Today, they own and operate four Java Love cafés, two of which are in Montclair. They also ship their coffees and teas all over the country.
Dubbing themselves “accidental entrepreneurs,” the couple is celebrating a decade of growth.
TH: Where did the idea for Java Love come from?
Jodie Dawson: We had a second home in the Catskills and couldn’t get a good cup of coffee. The big coffee joint up there was the gas station. We had a romantic notion to be a part of the economic development in the area. There were tons of amazing artisans, craft food businesses, farmers, artists and potters, and we thought we would bring everyone together and highlight everything the area had to offer. So we took out a small-business loan and opened an organic coffee roasting company in a 400-square-foot spot in rural Sullivan County.
Kristine-Ellis Petrik: Exactly what you’d expect from a child psychologist and a journalist.
TH: Why “accidental entrepreneurs?”
JD: At the time, we wrote a business plan and worked with the Small Business Association to help us with projections and numbers and pulling all that together. But I don’t really remember having any grand plan of what this was going to be. We didn’t really have this vision of a successful business. That’s why we say we’re accidental entrepreneurs.
KEP: It was just like, okay, here’s what we want to do. It was simply to make ends meet and have our door open, but never in a million years did we think this was going to be super successful. That’s probably not the smartest way to go into business, but it worked out.
TH: What led you to leave your jobs to pursue Java Love full-time?
JD: I would walk around with two phones. One was for Java Love and one was my personal cell phone and [the phone for] Java Love started ringing a lot. I was like, wait, this isn’t good, why am I getting so many coffee orders? I left my position, and shortly after, Kristine did, too, because we needed more space.
TH: How many locations do you have now?
JD: We ended up buying a larger building in the Catskills that we currently have one of our cafés in. We were living in Montclair, and around eight years ago there was no other specialty coffee place [there], so we thought the town could really use it. We converted a bank in Rockland County in Suffern into our roasting facility, but we also have a café and an indirect coffee shop there too.
TH: As an eco-friendly business, what are some of your sustainability practices?
JD: We are a New Jersey–certified green business. You can get discounts on your beans when you bring your own container, so we’re saving on the packaging. You can bring in a reusable cup and get a discount on your beverage. We don’t use plastic or styrofoam, and our straws are made from corn. All the coffee that we source and import is from farms that have sustainable practices. So it’s not just a cup of coffee.
TH: Did either of you think of starting a business before Java Love?
KEP: Over my 24 years at CNN, I really reinvented myself 12 times—going from being a writer to a producer, I did educational production and then marketing. I kind of had this entrepreneurial experience and drive, but with the safety net of a corporation. I don’t think I knew how much entrepreneurial training and thinking I had before starting our company.
JD: I’ve recognized that the entrepreneurial spirit is really a mindset. I think we were both, in our own ways, seekers, risk takers, constantly learning and problem-solving at our jobs.
TH: As both an LGBTQ+ and women-owned business, what is it like working in a male-dominated space?
JD: There have been many instances where we have not been taken seriously or have been schooled by men. One instance that always stands out to me was when I went to get a small-business loan. I had all my paperwork, and the man looking at it said, “Wow, you actually have a real business here.” It took everything in my power not to jump across the desk. On the flip side, there are also just as many men and people in the industry who are supportive. You’re always going to find both sides.
KEP: Sometimes you have to smile and be the bigger person and help people see it’s not just a man’s world. When we first started, we couldn’t afford to have the beans shipped to us, so every other week, I would go pick up seven to 10 150-pound bags of coffee. For the few years I did that, I was the only female there at the docks. I loved going there. The guys driving forklifts would see us and yell, “Java Love!” It was such a unique experience.
TH: What has been your favorite part of watching your business grow?
KEP: One of my favorite things is watching how Jodie works with our staff and manages them. She has really harnessed their power and empowered them within our company, which is incredible. Our relationships with our staff has helped keep them with us for a long time.
JD: Over the last 10 years, we’ve learned we’re really passionate about coffee. It has become a vehicle for us to really live out values that are really important to us, as well as having a positive impact on the community. Having a place where people are accepted, protecting our environment through sustainability practices and just putting positive energy into the world.
TH: What’s it like working with your wife and growing a business together?
JD: We definitely have the most complementary skills. Kristine has a great memory, is creative and very mechanical and kinesthetic. I am the complete opposite and more analytical. Over the years, we’ve definitely struggled with how to run a business together and not have that be so all-encompassing. We have some boundaries around it to keep a balance. And we’re still working at it.
KEP: It’s important to work at having boundaries so every night at the dinner table, we’re not talking about coffee beans and orders and all that. I think one of my favorite parts of owning a business together is sharing the journey and the process with our kids. They’ve learned a lot about entrepreneurship and have seen every bit of this business for the past 10 years.
Owned and operated by Jodie Dawson and Kristine-Ellis Petrik, Java Love has two Montclair locations at 244 Bellevue Ave. and 49 Church St. Their coffee, tea and more can be purchased online and shipped anywhere in the US.Click here to leave a comment