Businesses Network Over Coffee at B-Java

(top) B-Java's cafe latte
(below) BJ Davis
Photos by Linda Karn

(posted Apr 7)

Tom Lauth and Jason Smathers are just one example of the business synergy that form at B-Java, an espresso coffee shop. B- Java, located at 5510 Lafayette Road, is independently owned by BJ Davis. Some people might remember B-Java's location as the former Stanton Coffee.

Davis admits she was slightly rattled when Starbucks opened its doors within a football's throw from her about four years ago. Even with Starbucks adding a drive-thru, Davis is not giving up because she knows she has something better to offer.

Customer Clint Fultz contends the difference between Starbucks and B-Java is the socialization aspect. B-Java's atmosphere encourages strangers to strike up conversations. "They are more open and willing to socialize here," he said.

Davis tries to know her customers and their business so she can match businesses in need of services.

Lauth credited Davis for connecting him with Smathers for information technology help. Lauth, who operates a private investigation business, needed assistance with computer forensics.

It is the customer mentality of not wanting to try something new that bothers Davis the most about chain stores. People will patronize brand name stores out of familiarity, even if it is mediocre, to avoid the risk of trying an unknown independent store.

She admits the chain stores are successful at branding, but after doing some introspection, Davis realizes branding would be different for her store. "I have been thinking and branding is really me." She decided to break that customer mentality of familiarity by touting her experience and the use of local vendors for her chocolate, honey and shagbark hickory syrup.

Coffee houses were big in the 1950s and early 1960s but died off. Davis has been involved in the coffee business for 14 years, starting when specialty coffees slowly started to make a come back. She is a member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America Barista Guild and is involved in competing and judging barista contests.

"A true barista knows the mechanics of coffee. It is not slamming coffee in a cup. There's quite a bit of romance to coffee. I think of coffee as a culinary art. It is just as complex as wine," she said.

Espresso is the concentrated form of coffee that is brewed under pressure at certain temperatures, depending upon the coffee. A good espresso will have layers The light color is the crema that gives it its sweetness. She said when water is added to espresso it is called Cafe Americana. She said the cafe latte's foamy appearance comes from injecting the right balance of heated milk and air into the espresso. She emphasized the importance of having a proper balance because it changes the sugar structure than can give it a pudding smell.

Davis has expanded the menu by adding items like smoothies, scones, bread pudding, toast and quiche, baked oatmeal and cookies. Davis is still working on fine tuning her baked oatmeal that she discovered in Milwaukee while visiting a coffee shop. "I never heard of Baked Oatmeal until the trip," she said. Davis was so impressed with the dish, she decided that she would add it to her menu once she developed a lower fat recipe.

Davis not only uses her own culinary skills, but she is letting her newly-hired barista Andy Gilman offer his 2nd place State Fair Cinnamon Rolls. The only thing holding Davis back from introducing the rolls is finding kitchen space to let the dough rise.

She also promotes a different local artist each month by having an art show in her store. Cindy Cradle's art pieces are currently hanging on the walls.

Davis invites all to share their artwork and tap into their talents. She said a lady dropped off a book titled "Make Art in Coffee Shops". It is an empty book of white pages designed to allow coffee drinkers to write poems, draw or do any kind of creative expression.