By Gina Apperson – 2014
A good adventure can only be fueled by coffee. As Dustin, Miranda and I began our journey in the foothills of North Carolina, inspired by the views of Blue Ridge Mountains and the changing leaves around us, one of our first stops in downtown Hendersonville was the coffee shop, Jongo Java. Coming off of Highway 64, we arrived on Main Street, where people were setting up tents for farmers’ markets and Hendersonville’s 55th annual Art on Main festival along the road. Jongo Java was easy to spot, with its lime green signage. We parked right in front of the shop, and walked in to get our first taste of the town.
I first started drinking coffee six months ago when I studied abroad in Spain and traveled around Europe. Since then, as quite the newbie coffee drinker, I tend to equate travel with coffee. I was excited to start our Highway 64 trip with a latte or mocha at Hendersonville’s first environmentally-friendly coffee shop. From what I discovered, Jongo Java not only had a good menu, but also an upbeat community vibe. From the outside, you could tell it was where the locals go.
When I first stepped into the shop, I was immediately inspired. Hand painted art dotted the walls, which were painted with different swirls of green, purple, orange and blue. Several groups of people sat at wooden tables, surrounded by different types of chairs including a yellow salon chair with a hair dryer attached. We first walked around the shop, which was pretty large with two main sections, one up at the front by the counter and one section in the back, where people were quietly working on laptops or reading. A large sculpture of a swordfish hung on a back wall with a stack of used books on a nearby shelf.
After taking a look around, I decided to try some coffee. Jack and Mariah were the two employees working behind the counter. Since I was unsure what to get (like I am at most coffee places), Mariah asked me what kind of flavors I liked. I told her anything with coconut, and then I found their “Tarzan” drink, a chocolate & coconut latte. I ordered it with almond milk, and Mariah looked for coconut shavings in the back of the store to place on top of the whipped cream foaming in the to-go cup. We chatted a little bit, and I learned more about the history of Jongo Java, which has been open for almost five years. Along with its fair trade, naturally grown coffee and espresso, Jongo Java also offers organic yogurt and smoothies made with local fruit. This appealed to me, and looking around the coffee shop, I also realized that the coffee and food isn’t the only fuel at Jongo Java.
Its atmosphere cultivates creative thoughts and a creative community. While Miranda and Dustin explored other spots in downtown Hendersonville, I felt content to sip on my coffee and talk to a retired couple from Florida in Jongo Java. Jack comes by to give them their regular Saturday morning breakfast order. They mention how they love the friendliness of Jongo Java-Jack always remembers their order. Not to mention, the dog-friendly outdoor seating area is perfect for them. This also means the world to Caroline, a young pet boutique owner, who sits at the bar area and orders a small dark coffee that morning.
Caroline is also a regular at Jongo Java, which is two blocks away from her business, Wag! Pet Boutique, which she started after college at Virginia Tech. She tells me about the other regulars at Jongo Java. Rachel is an artist. Tom is a writer. Bill is a musician. And Bob is a Wells Fargo financial advisor. They frequent the coffee shop and chat about all things from religion, to politics, from jokes to pure existence. Caroline notes the diversity in the group and the diverse culture of Hendersonville in general: people are from rural countrysides to suburban areas or southern cities. As we chat in Jongo Java, dads with their young kids come into the shop and older couples enjoy sitting in the sun by the plants in the window.
This may be my favorite thing about exploring Hendersonville: its authenticity. I felt welcomed in the coffee shop, into this community without borders, that embraces the unique, the different and out-of-place. This is the place where customers hang their personal coffee mugs on the wall. Art is accepted, whether its a drawing of coffee on a sheet of loose leaf paper or a canvas painting of bright honeydew-colored combat boots. Jongo Java is a jungle of stories, art and ideas that not only brighten the room, but energize its people. Spun in its web of artful treasures and coffee masterpieces, I not only sit in Jongo Java, I feel all of Hendersonville.
I leave Jongo Java empowered for the journey ahead. Dustin, Miranda and I take to the streets of Hendersonville, passing by multiple bear sculptures decorated for a charity auction. We see the streets full of art pieces as the cool wind blows. Then we get back into the car after we finish touring the farm and art markets. But before we head out of town, we drive two blocks away from Jongo Java to stop in the middle of the street in front of Caroline’s pet boutique. I jumped out of the car to take a peek inside. While I am not a pet person, it was interesting to see how Caroline set up her business out of college and to see how she turned a passion into a living community. A man named Ben was supplying homemade pet treats for the store and a variety of unique collars and pet accessories lined the walls inside. I thanked Caroline for all her help in making Hendersonville feel like home for the short time we were there.
Getting back in the car, I finished the last of my coffee and plugged in our next destination into the GPS on my phone. As we drove towards Bat Cave on Highway 64, my thoughts still lingered with scenes from Hendersonville. I found myself missing the coffee shops I discovered in Europe. Jongo Java would fit in perfectly with them. Its coffee served with a side of stories was my catalyst for living openly on our Highway 64 trip, welcoming the day to come.