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The Jam: Gritty on the outside, but cozy within

Move over Bongo Java, there’s a new unconventional coffee shop on the block.

It’s called The Jam, and its outside appearance and location at the corner of Wedgewood and 12th avenues bring a unique, even if visually uninviting, vibe to the storefront. The dark, almost black tinted windows lined with bars add to the urban curb appeal.

Once inside the quaint shop, the outward appearance with its rougher aspects is at odds with the cozy retro feeling that comes from the estate-sale finds decor. A hodgepodge of ‘50s and ‘60s furniture is scattered throughout the shop along with board games and a deck of cards. All the seating areas are arranged to encourage conversation and to provide a relaxing hangout for the customers.

The retro theme continues with the countertop; it’s bright orange with whimsical shapes, and it’s lower than the normal store counter to enhance the atmosphere’s relaxing quality.

At the counter, there are choices of 33 different types of teas that vary from the typical black tea to the exotic flavors of Piña Colada and papaya. A sign above the grinder boasts all teas can be made into a milky tea, a variation of bubble tea.

True to its name, The Jam’s menu contains all the normal coffee shop fares but with a slight variation; little to no syrups are used to produce the flavored concoctions. Like almost everything else on the menu, the coffee beans come from a local roaster, Roast Inc.

Maile, Diana, Mark and Bethany Newton co-own the family-run establishment and strive to make every part of the experience at The Jam as comforting as possible.

“We really just wanted people to feel like they were walking into our kitchen and I was cooking for them,” said Diana. “The vintage look of the shop is part of that welcoming and relaxing feeling we like, not that hoity-toity feeling that a lot of coffee shops put off.”

The relaxing and casual vibe the co-owners give off even shows in how the coffee shop got its name.

“Well, when me and my sister eat something that’s just really good we say that ‘this is my jam.’ It’s our way of saying,‘Wow this is amazing’ and we wanted people to think the same while eating our food so we named the shop The Jam,” Maile said.

Opening The Jam was the family seizing an opportunity to fulfill a dream.

“I was helping a friend move her salon into a space in this strip mall and saw the ‘for rent’ sign,” Maile said. “It turned out the landlord actually wanted a coffee shop to go in the mall so we jumped on the chance. I had always dreamed about owning a coffee shop but never thought it would happen so quickly.” In a crowded Nashville market, The Jam tries to draw customers by using its limited space to build a comforting atmosphere along with generally lower prices compared to the major coffee shops in the Belmont area. Another draw for the environmentally-minded customer is the emphasis on organic products.

“We serve local and organic as much as possible but our real aim is just fresh, good healthy food, even if it is a bit sweet,” said Diana. The area surrounding The Jam may not be considered an up-and-coming piece of real estate, but to the owners, it’s merely a chance to be part of something new.

“About the location,” Diana said, “I feel that God always puts you in a place to be part of the change.”

-Autumn Allison

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