The success of Java Break, the coffee shop voted best coffee for the second year in a row, is due to one thing, says owner Derek Hogan: its loyal customers.
“Seriously, the coffee business is based on the loyalty of your customers, and Java Break has been blessed with always having lots of great regulars that support us and have our back,” Hogan said.
Hogan, 50, opened the Java Break in 1994. Hogan said, at the time, he didn’t have the finances to open an entire restaurant, so he decided to open a coffee shop instead.
“Coffee shops were getting pretty huge at the time, and Lawrence only really had La Prima Tazza,” Hogan said. “I love coffee, and it was a way to get into baking and serving some tasty sandwiches and just kind of get my foot in the door to do more of what I wanted to do in the future.”
Java Break was originally supposed to be the Java Beat, a coffee shop with an emphasis on music, at a location on 23rd Street and Louisiana.
However, Hogan said the location fell through, so he was forced to change his business model and open his coffee shop in a 200-square feet location off of Massachusetts Street. Thus, Java Break was born.
Hogan said, while college students make up about half of his customers, Java Break is a coffee shop for anyone to study, play board games and go on coffee dates.
“I bet you five times a month I hear from someone where they had their first date here, and now they’re married with three kids,” Hogan said.
In addition to a unique menu that includes, among other things, a cereal bar and homemade chai, vanilla and chocolate syrups and almond milk, Java Break also boasts an eclectic atmosphere.
Kyle Ta, a freshman from Wichita studying biology and philosophy, visits Java Break several times a month due to its one-of-a-kind aesthetics.
“As for the coffee shops itself, the culture is really nice. I will mainly go to Java Break for atmosphere,” Ta said. “Compared to other coffee shops, it tends to be a little bit more casual and less harsh.”
Java Break includes many unique rooms, but its most notable room is the free speech room, where anyone can write anything.
“The free speech zone was kind of a compromise, because we had problems with people drawing in the bathrooms, so I kind of set this room aside and said, ‘go crazy,’ and it actually stopped the graffiti in the rest of the store. It kind of became a tourist attraction on its own,” Hogan said.
Hogan said Java Break’s unique appearance is a result of the way the shop has been expanded over the years.
“Java Break is never static," Hogan said. "The chance of a booth room being the same two years from now is slim to none. It’s definitely a unique atmosphere. It kind of evolved that way.”
Though dozens of coffee shops have opened up since Java Break broke ground, Hogan’s coffee shop still stands out to customers.
“Even talking to KU grads, who are like 30 or so, who know about Java Break, it’s always been a staple,” Ta said. “Before even going to KU, I was always told to go to Java Break.”
Hogan said he plans to continue to run Java Break until his inevitable retirement, but he is thankful for all whom have supported him over the years.
— Edited by Brenna Boat