Coffee shops don’t just serve coffee.
They bring a place for community to come together. For students to study, hang out with friends or even those who only have time to say hi and get a quick cup.
From the struggling college student to the exhausted mom, these shops serve everyone their daily brew.
One of these locations can be found right off of Belmont Boulevard in Bongo Java.
Bongo Java has been a community staple in the Belmont area for over 30 years, serving students and locals alike.
Founder Bob Bernstein opened Bongo Java to bring local coffee to locals. He started working with a small farm in East Nashville to get quality beans, where the café still buys its coffee from today.
“We only buy organically-grown coffee directly from small-scale farmer groups at prices above the so-called Fair-Trade price because we learned a long time ago how our buying choices have real world-wide social and economic consequences,” Bongo Java states on its website.
The dream to help local businesses and make a place for communities in Nashville to feel welcomed was and continues to be the dream of Bongo Java.
“That’s kind of what started this place,” said general manager Melody Reich. “Bob started by working with a coalition across the world. Then built it up to be Bongo Java as one of the first coffee shops in Nashville.”
They hope to partner with more Belmont students to hang their art on the walls, bring back late-night hours and open mics and to build a “mommy’s corner” so tired moms can have their coffee in peace, she said.
“There are a lot of loose ends I want to tie up with adding more community-based things here, because I think having the community is what keeps business like this going,” Reich said.
Julia Campopiano, a Belmont senior, has been a semi-regular since her freshman year has always gotten a warm and fuzzy feeling at Bongo Java, even when things were anything but.
“There was that huge tornado - all of the power was out on campus, obviously, so we walked over here,” Campopiano said. “Everybody was kind of bonding over, ‘Oh yeah, the power is out - we don’t know what to do about it,’ and we got breakfast burritos and stuff.”
The convenient location, consistent tastes and quality food with vegan and gluten-free options make Bongo Java a Belmont staple. Even with increasing prices over the last few years.
“We’re trying to make it more fair, where we give them more quality and a little bit more quantity on the dishes,” she said.
The vibrant, talkative atmosphere cultivates a welcoming environment for those studying, hanging out with friends, or doing a group project.
“If you don’t remember their name, you’re gonna remember their coffee order,” Reich said.
This article was written by Maya Burney