Java Joe’s turns 10 years old

Java Joe’s owners Manju Pandey, left, and her husband, Mahesh Thapa. (Contributed Photo)

Java Joe’s owners Manju Pandey, left, and her husband, Mahesh Thapa. (Contributed Photo)

Java Joe’s celebrates its 10th anniversary this Saturday with free refreshments offered from 9am until closing time.

The beloved coffee shop in Dandan will also offer 10-percent off on all drinks in March. They will also hold a raffle for $10 to $15 gift cards from customer receipts at the end of the month.

Aside from their customer favorite “Almond Rocca” and their other regular flavors, the coffee shop has new flavors for their blended drinks like avocado, aaro, vanilla bean, green tea, mint chip, honeydew, cantaloupe, coconut, melon, watermelon, blueberry frost and buko pandan.

Another new addition is their bubble tea—a freshly brewed green or black tea with tapioca and a customer’s choice of flavor, from raspberry, strawberry cherry, mango, peach, kiwi, and more.

Manju Pandey, who runs Java Joes, bought the coffee shop in 2007, and has been there since.

“I really didn’t have a clue,” she said of her beginnings. “But over the years we learned.”

The coffee shop is run with the help of Kathleen “Kath” Tolentino, and Pandey’s husband, Mahesh Thapa, who brings over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry in the U.S. and Australia to the coffee shop. He has worked with restaurants and hotels, serving burgers, wings, breakfast, many of which are also served at the shop.

Thapa said they aim to make their coffee shop a “second home for customers,” where they can feel cozy and relaxed. “We never compromise with our service,” he said. “From when we opened up until today.”

Tolentino has been with Jave Joe’s even longer than Pandey, as a barista since it opened in 2005.

Pandey calls Tolentino “one of the best around.” She’s good with everyone, she said. “I can depend on her.”

Tolentino said working in coffee shops is her passion, as she was a barista in the Philippines even before she moved to Saipan.

“It’s one of those things where even with my eyes closed, I can do,” she said.

For all three of them, they know that the coffee shop leans on the loyal customers and staff throughout the years.

“We are willing to go the extra mile to meet their needs,” Thapa said.

Pandey added that they were the “original” coffee place on island, and are “still here,”

“Our best assets are our staff,” she said. “Without them we wouldn’t be here.”

Pandey said since they’ve opened they’ve had the same range of customers, from kids to seniors, government professionals, to lawyers and police, among many others.

They tell her and Thapa that the “music is relaxing” and “not noisy.” Thapa says your behavior will change once you enter the coffee shop. “Like entering the cinema,” he added.

Pandey points to their “old-school” music jukebox that they let pick the music for the shop itself. Its jazzy, mellow, and soft sounds go well with the smell of their coffee beans freshly gathered from the island crop.

Thapa says that as soon as their Marianas coffee is roasted, it is at the shop. “It gives it that aroma,” he said

Java Joe’s has been a regular participant in community and school events, donating gift certificates to many fundraisers.

And all through this time—for the most part—they’ve kept their prices the same, even through some of the rock bottoms the island has hit economically over the years.

Pandey says they’ve had the same prices for their items since 2009.

She said costs for raw materials have risen but “we managed to be able to keep prices the same. We don’t want to turn away students” or other customers, she added.

Tolentino said her bosses, Pandey and Thapa, also “do everything.”

“They help,” she said. “Unlike other bosses, they don’t sit down, just observing.”

Pandey and Thapa said maintaining their prices and keeping the shop open is all about “putting in the extra time” and dedication.

This, Thapa said, increases efficiency. “We are doing what we do, while people are raising prices and cutting corners. We are putting time in it, our hands in it.”

Asked about growing competitors around the island, especially the large Mango Six that opened across the street, Thapa and Pandey said sales have interestingly been busier.

“Our product is out there and customers love it. We don’t worry,” Manju said.

She said they always ask for customer feedback.

“It’s not a competition,” she said. All the coffee shops on island offer something no one else does, she said.

“I hope we’ll make it another 10, 20 years,” she said.

Jonjie Reyes Reyes

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