By contributor Brian MacDonald
After 19 years of business, Jumpin’ Java and VIU came to a mutual agreement to close the cafe on campus by April 2017. This piece was written by Jumpin’ Java owner, Brian MacDonald.
Where would such a story, such a recapping, be without a headliner. There can be only one, and it’s clear and defined in a single word. That being the name of our past star, our past friend and beloved cat, Malcolm.
Thrown to the elements, to the challenges, and yet also to a loving following, he won our hearts. And that little bundle of feline joy can be best depicted through a story in itself.
My past business partner and I struggled for some time over whether the star-status fixture around the original Campus Coffee Kiosk should be relocated to a loving home off the school grounds, or stay on as a university stray. Malcolm, after coming from an original domestic upbringing and being cast away, had integrated well, and was pretty much anything but feral.
Thus, with hesitance and yet what seemed like a sensible choice, we chose to move him to an appropriate home. His relocation was carefully done, however, Malcolm apparently had a mandate of his own, miles away from VIU. When we heard that he had elected to leave, we were saddened. What was to become of our friend? Weeks went by, and we could only hope that during a cold and snowy December, he’d somehow find his way to safety.
It was Christmas morning, and it had snowed considerably, enough that I couldn’t get my SUV up the campus roadways to feed the strays. But I had brought high boots, and I hiked up from Wakesiah to the Kiosk, now buried in a fresh overnight blanket. What was about to happen was far beyond any Christmas wish. As I approached, I saw him: sitting by the back Kiosk door, tired and depleted, was our little man.
I shook my head, I said his name, and he came and did as he always did, brushed against my right leg. He was home. Realizing his exhausted state, I quickly stroked him and fetched some wet cat food. He ate well, took drink, looked at me, brushed my leg again in acceptance and what I assumed was forgiveness, and moved away as if to say “I have a job to do.” I sensed that job was to oversee where and how his other past feral cohorts were doing, to navigate again his chosen ground, his last and only true residence. Thank you, Malcolm, you’ve never been forgotten, and touched many hearts over the years!
And it’s absolutely true. Any small business or enterprise is only as good as their following. Jumpin’ Java’s near two decades of service have been blessed with a loyal and otherwise unobtainable customer base. So many shared student success stories—simply put, the best. Oh, how people gravitate towards good Java. Jumpin’ Java has evolved over all the years, not only physically from being “The Java Hut” to a full-service Espresso Bar (what we elect to call the Campus Hub) but also with offerings, and more. And yet, it’s the quality of customer and their acceptance has made the journey the pleasure it has been. For any small business, survival does not come without challenge. Through strikes, through adversity, everyone within Jumpin’ Java believed in one unshakeable constant, and have never forgotten who we were beholden to: our customers. I’ve been asked if we will relocate, but Jumpin’ Java would not be the same. It found its home on campus, just like Malcolm.
For years, Jumpin’ Java transformed both the Java Hut and Espresso Bar to the Haunted Campus Halloween Hangout. It grew to include costume contests, scares, and frivolity over a few weeks, annually. Customer costumes were fabulous, and such occasions brought all staff and customers into a more connected community. The staff and customer relationship goes beyond being served, it must be about the experience as well. As a business on a campus, we’ve wished to be perceived as a place you can decompress, albeit, most of the time, briefly. There’ve been lineups at times, yes, but, seemingly it’s all been a part of the ambiance. To text in wait mode, inhale the energy and aromas. Mocha Madness: it’s never changed in over 18 years! Occasionally getting visits from past students who have ventured out and immersed themselves within their field of choice in the abyss of the working world is great. They still, years later, talk about campus memories.
For a small business on a campus or elsewhere, climbing to a certain level of sustainability and success is, to a large extent, about alliances. From the onset, we rallied and dug thoroughly to acquire other supplying and supporting contractors. It can take years to acquire such trust, and,again, we’ve always been amazed just how committed and cooperative the Vancouver Island business community truly is. Over the years, it’s been evident that all the grinding, calculated risks, and investment into their vision has produced reliable—quality—successful ventures. The marketplace in today’s small business environment is not without significant challenges, and yet once committed, there’s an opportunity in every friendly wave, every marketplace. Alliances become mutual supply lines of substance and shared cooperation. To all those that have weathered the challenges, have pushed ahead logging long hours, putting it on the line, we applaud and commend you. We know what it feels like. Thank you for believing in the little spot on the hill.
This is only a glimpse of all the years and commitment to our business from our irreplaceable patrons. Truly, what seems like a blur of years, fond memories, and experiences, will remain entrenched. I will continue to reflect and consider venture and opportunity into the spirited small business and entrepreneurial dimension of our community. Each venture considered, each challenge multi-faceted in dimension. Therein, however, lies the challenge, the will to succeed in more than one capacity: venture or adventure, it’s all one.