North Washington Caf to replace Java Js

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November 2, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
Java J’s has closed, but the North Loop isn’t about to lose one of its few neighborhood coffee joints. A new café is filling in the spot on the ground floor of the Tower Lofts building, at 700 Washington Ave. N., offering up coffee, Espresso drinks, wine, beer, light breakfast fare and grab-and-go lunches for local condo dwellers and office workers.

And if all goes well, it could be open in the next few weeks.

Joe Grunnet, owner/broker at the Downtown Resource Group, a real estate office located right next door to the old Java J’s, closed on the space on Oct. 29. His new North Washington Café should be open no later than Dec. 1, he said.

“I’ll be the first to tell you, I don’t know anything about coffee,” Grunnet said. “I’m leaning on the experts that I’m employing to manage it and run it.”

Grunnet, leery of having an empty space beside his office, bought the property in order to have some control over the surrounding real estate. But he also said he wanted to secure a lynchpin of a still maturing neighborhood.

“Taking away a café in today’s market would hurt the North Loop,” he said. “Because there’s still not enough density there.”

Plus, the café retains an important amenity for the residents of Tower Lofts: a convenient place to grab workday fuel. Grunnet envisions an online pre-ordering system for swoop-in lunches. He also talked about maybe delivering light breakfasts — oatmeal, fruit — to Tower Lofts residents. Grab-and-go boxed lunches will also be a staple.

Lunch and dinner options include quality sandwiches and soups. Not Be’wiched-level gourmet, he said, but solid items priced affordably with good service.

And while he wouldn’t reveal the coffee guru he plans to put in charge, he said he would retain some of Java J’s employees.

But the vibe will most certainly be different. Gone is the blue-and-chrome spaceship décor of Java J’s. Instead of looking futuristic, the North Washington Café might actually aim for an old-fashioned feel.

“The concept is going to be a throw-back to the old neighborhood,” Grunnet said. He’ll most likely build the theme around historic pictures of the old Warehouse District.