Two giants transforming communities in Clayton County one cup of coffee at a time
Starbucks and First Baptist Church of Jonesboro have opened coffee shops on Tara Boulevard and downtown Jonesboro, respectively to be catalysts for renewing Clayton communities.
Coffee shops and cafés increasingly are playing more significant roles in development and renewal of downtowns, communities, and neighborhoods across America, sociologists say. It’s the rebirth of centuries-old practices where a sense of community is built around a commonplace like churches or barbershops known as “third place” spaces. These are places you can go to outside of your home or work.
“The coffee shop is a necessary aspect for Clayton County and Jonesboro,” said Wendell Webb, a minister at First Baptist Church and manager of Fig Tree Café in downtown Jonesboro. “When you’re trying to revitalize an area, you’re trying to bring people back …and bring it back to life. We’re bringing people into the café to make connections with others and build those relationships.”
When Starbucks closed its Lovejoy store a while back, not only did it leave a void for upscale coffee and pastries, it narrowed the options of places for people to hang out. Now the Seattle-based coffee brewmeister is back with a vengeance.
Starbucks opens a community store in Jonesboro
Earlier this month, Starbucks opened a “community store” in the Dixie corridor of Tara Boulevard. The store at 6564 Tara Blvd in Jonesboro is the first of its kind in Georgia, and one of only 14 in the Starbucks chain, store manager Trent Allen said. It is part of a national network of community stores aimed at hiring residents and using local and minority-owned contractors. It employs 28 people, all residents. With its wraparound couches and mod-decor, Starbucks intends to make the eatery a go-to gathering spot for Clayton residents, a collaborative hub for community and nonprofit groups, and a vital training channel for workforce development in Clayton. It has teamed with Hearts to Nourish Hope, a Clayton organization, and United Way of Greater Atlanta.
In addition to selling its usual eclectic CDs, blends of coffees, teas, pastries, and other delicacies, the store features a community meeting room filled with art by Tanzanian-Nigerian Marryam Mom, a noted Atlanta artist. County leaders used the meeting room on opening day to work on plans for a major county event, Allen noted.
Starbucks hopes its presence will draw other businesses to the area, Allen added.
Fig Tree Cafe provides a ‘sense of community’ to Downtown Jonesboro
Similarly, First Baptist Church opened Fig Tree Cafe’ at 126 South Main St. in Jonesboro last September after Jonesboro city leaders approached the church about participating in the downtown revitalization. Inside Fig Tree, visitors are welcomed into a parlor-style atmosphere complete with comfy couches, chairs, ambient lighting, a piano, and a fireplace. Pastries and salads are made fresh daily, and the beverage menus include coffees and teas from around the world.
“If you go back through history and look at towns, you had tea rooms where people gathered and built relationships,” said Webb, a psychologist by training. “There are coffee shops, tea rooms, bakeries that have a ‘stammtisch.’ That’s German for a standardized place where you sit or stand and have a conversation with people over coffee and tea. Those types of establishments date back hundreds of years. “We’re the spearhead for the Jonesboro revitalization,” Webb said. Meet Carrie Webb, our featured employee/resident of the month.
Both stores have plenty of outlets for charging laptops, phones, and other tech gear.
Coffee Shops bring people together in Clayton
Starbucks and Fig Tree aren’t the only places to go in Clayton for a home-away-from-home vibe or place to work. Here’s a sampling of other coffee shops in Clayton:
Atlanta Bread Company. Come for the soups and sandwiches. Stay for the airy atmosphere. Address: 1943 Mount Zion Cir., Morrow 30260. WIFI: Yes
Barnes & Noble Cafe’. Who wouldn’t want to be snuggly ensconced in a roomful of books and periodicals? B&N has always been a favorite spot for college students and business execs needing a place to sit and study or create while sipping coffee or tea and eating pastries. Address: 1939 Mount Zion Rd, Morrow 30260. WIFI: Yes
Boba Theory. This coffee shop opened two and a half years ago in a nondescript beige brick building less than a mile from Clayton State University. It serves up an assortment of Bubble Teas and desserts and gives off that 1960s, early 70s vibe. A place for millennials and others to meet and mingle. Note the mini-Polaroid snapshots of customers and staff at the counter. The Thai Iced Tea does not disappoint. Address: 1585 Lake Harbin Rd., Morrow, 30260. WIFI: Yes
Dunkin Donuts. Don’t how they know, but they seem to know just the amount of cream and sugar you want in your coffee. Dare you to leave without trying the old-fashioned cake donuts or the ones with the chocolate glaze or sprinkles. Stores in Rex (6550 GA-42, Rex, GA 30273), Jonesboro (6622 Tara Blvd), and Hampton (11286 Tara Blvd).
Krispy Kreme. An old-time favorite, still located in the heart of Riverdale. It’s the “hot sign” that pulls people in for the delicious hot doughnuts every time! Address: 6689 Highway 85, Riverdale, GA 30274. WIFI: Yes
Quickly Morrow. Located in a brick front strip plaza called Hong Phat Market in Lake City, this storefront fits nicely into its surroundings. Consider the menu: Bubble Tea, Lobster balls, fried Squid Balls, fried Potsticker, and whole fried quail and a wide array of drink toppings such as Honey Boba, Lichee, and Green Tea jellies. There’s plenty of room to spread your laptop, books, briefcase, and elbows. Address: 5299 Jonesboro Rd., Lake City, 30260. WIFI: Yes
Where Other Starbucks Community Stores Are Located:
Jamaica in Queens, N.Y. Ferguson, Mo. Phoenix, Ariz. Englewood (southside of Chicago) East Baltimore, Md. Long Beach, Calif. Trenton, N.J. White Center in south Seattle, Wash. Miami Gardens, Florida, Birmingham, Ala. Dallas, Tex. Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn, N.Y. New Orleans, La.
Pictured above from left to right: Clayton residents Chanele Yaowaluck, Sean Wallace and Eric Huggins