I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like coffee,” laughed Craig Jurasz. Does he love coffee? Of course, he does.
Jurasz, who has spent a good portion of his working life serving coffee to customers, whether at a restaurant where he once worked or at his own coffee shops, is the owner of Agawam’s Java Stop which will celebrate its sixth year of operation in December.
Why do people love coffee so much?
Jurasz has a simple answer. “It wakes you up and gives you the energy you need to get through Monday and the rest of the week,” he said.
Central Perks, the fictional coffee shop where the popular characters on the NBC sitcom “Friends” used to meet, helped the popularity of coffee shops everywhere.
“That was back in the ’90s. I was living in Washington state at the time and already there were at least seven coffee shops within a block’s radius of my house. I think the trend with a lot of good things like music and coffee, for example, is that they start in the West and migrate to the East,” he said.
Howard Schultz did much to further the coffeehouse concept. After traveling to Italy, where he saw the popularity of espresso bars in Milan, his goal was to create a similar coffeehouse culture in Seattle with Starbucks. In 1984, he convinced its founders to test the coffeehouse concept in downtown Seattle, where the first Starbucks Caffè Latte was served and the idea went on to great success.
“When I came back to the area about 19 years ago after marrying my wife, Heidi, I felt there were no good coffee shops here like the ones that were within driving distance of my home in Vancouver. I couldn’t stand Dunkin’ anymore, and I could never figure out how Starbucks made it out of Seattle where it started. There were so many other good coffee shops in Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland, OR, just a ways from Vancouver, to choose from,” he said.
So, the Chicopee native opened his own coffee shop called the Route 20 Java Stop. While he considered it to be a success, he sold the business, whicheventually closed its doors for good, when his son was born prematurely to focus on his health.
“I was never really worried about the competition, the bigger guys, because I knew we could provide a better product and win people over as the smaller guy,” Jurasz said.
It wouldn’t be for another eight years that Jurasz would take a second shot in the coffee business after working in different restaurants throughout the area.
“I wanted to create a fun place for people to come and feel comfortable, not some snobby coffee shop. And I wanted us to focus on customer service,” Jurasz said.
“It makes me happy to hear on a day that I wasn’t at work that the service was great and there was a good review online. I know my staff took care of them. I’m kind of a pain when I go out to other places. We bend over backwards for our customers and I just want a fraction of that from others. We used to be a manufacturing country, now we’re a service country, and no one can do it,” he
After Jurasz opened his new shop – somewhat smaller than he wanted, but still with a six-seat counter service – he said within six months it was busier than his first shop ever was. In addition to good coffee and good service, he attributes the success in part to competition.
“There wasn’t a Starbucks around when I opened my first shop, but by the time I opened my new shop there was a local Starbucks. So, people being accustomed to espresso, cappuccino, and lattes which we serve helped me, the local guy,” Jurasz said.
Jurasz brews Pierce Bros. Coffee, including dark roasts like Black Bear, medium roasts, and decaf, alongside four flavored coffees including vanilla, hazelnut, chocolate and a “flavor of the month.” Coffee lovers can choose from hot brew and cold brew including nitro.
For those who like their coffee strong, emphasis on very strong, there are two different brand options – Death Wish with its jolting over 700 milligrams of caffeine and Devil Mountain, which boasts its brew as “the most powerful coffee in the world” at 1,555 milligrams of caffeine.
“Normal coffee is about 150 milligrams,” Jurasz said.
But the real specialty of the house is the many lattes they create.
“We have some 200 different kinds of lattes that appeal to a wide variety of customers that we make from 64 different syrups. We didn’t start off with that many, but they grew when customers would come in and customize their own lattes with different combinations of those syrups. Some tasted really good and went on to be added to our latte menu, with a title that often carried the customer’s name,” Jurasz said.
Jurasz shared his top-five selling lattes, including one special to the fall season:
1. Chico’s ChiQuita – Nutella, banana, and salted caramel
2. Gina’s Peanut Butter Cup – Chocolate, real peanut butter and peanut butter syrup
3. Kylie’s Kickin’ Cup – Real peanut butter, chocolate
4. Dad’s Fluffernutter – Real peanut butter, toasted marshmallow and vanilla
5. Hocus Pocus – Pumpkin, chocolate chip cookie dough, and cookie butter.
“My son came up with the Kickin’ Cup combination when he was around age nine, so we named it after him,” Jurasz said.
When October came around at the shop several years ago, the barista noted he put his staff up to a challenge.
“I told them everyone has pumpkin spice on their menus. We have to do better than that. And they did, coming up with 31 different pumpkin combinations, one for each day in October. Then we went on to do the same for Christmas, getting into the spirit with 21 seasonal holiday lattes,” Jurasz said about their creative lattes which continue to mirror the seasons.
But, it’s not just java, lattes and more on the menu at Agawam’s Java Stop. Thirsty customers can also order up Peppy Peach Green Tea Lemonade, Blackberry Mojito, Green Tea Lemonade, Mango
Black Tea Lemonade, Frozen Iced Tea, Frozen Lemonade, Frozen Hot Chocolate, Hot Chocolate Caramel Apple Cider, Fruit Puree Smoothies, Italian Sodas, and more in different combinations.
Want a little to eat with your drink? There are breakfast sandwiches and sweet treats from Mrs. Murphy’s Donuts in Southwick, including the shop’s popular donuts, cinnamon buns and apple fritters. Other selections include English muffins, a variety of breads and crispy angel wings pastry from Balboni Bakery in Agawam, as well as gluten free options from the Gluten Thief Bakery. Jurasz also has a local woman who bakes cupcakes for him, many of them imaginatively themed to holidays and more, including Christmas, Thanksgiving, Super Bowl, Halloween, Easter and Shark Week.
“We also bake our own muffins like pumpkin, chocolate chip, cranberry orange, then once after Halloween we made muffins with leftover candy,” Jurasz said.
While his son, now 14, has lost interest in helping at the shop, the couple’s five-year-old daughter, Lily, is picking up the slack.
“She often comes in on Saturdays and draws pictures on the back of our loyalty cards. She’s also a good little salesgirl and will often ask customers, “Would you like something to eat with that?” Jurasz said.
If you just read a few online reviews of Agawam’s Java Stop, it’s easy to see that Jurasz has reached his goal of creating a good product and top-notch service.
“Certainly, it’s better coffee and service than anything you’ll find at Dunkin’ or Starbucks,” read one review.
“Did Disney produce this place?” read another.
“Found this little gem of a coffee shop after dropping the folks at the airport. You almost miss the location because it’s an adorable hole in the wall,” wrote another happy customer.
Located at 1226 Springfield St. in Feeding Hills, the shop is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
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