To kick off our new blog, we’re launching a regular feature “Culinary Women and Coffee,” celebrating hardworking women in the F&B community. For our first feature, we head down to Kiawah Island to visit Java Java owner, Jaki DiGeronimo and her sister Sarah. Sarah is the shop manager, while Jaki is the store owner of the popular coffee shop in Freshfields village.
Jaki’s interview is below…stay tuned for Sarah’s next week!
My name is Jaki and I’m originally from Massachusetts but have been coming to Charleston since I was about five. My parents bought a condo on Kiawah back in the 1980s, when everything was still dirt roads and very undeveloped. I always knew I wanted to move here- Charleston always felt like home to me, so when I was 18, I applied and got into the College of Charleston.
I started working at Java Java as a barista about 42 years ago and loved it! I loved how fast paced it was and how there’s always something to do. Six years ago the owners were ready to sell, so I bought it! It’s seen such a huge transformation over the past six years. I really had a vision for it and within the past two years I feel like we've achieved where we wanted it to be. Great coffee, great food and fun atmosphere.
I’m a creative person, so the really fun part of my job is creating the menu, branding and creating an atmosphere. I loved the recent renovation we did because I had spent so much time dreaming of what I wanted Java Java to look like and feel like we finally were able to make all of it a reality. I’m not so into the paper work side of things…but you take the good with the bad!
Basically, my husband say that if I don’t have coffee within the first hour of waking up, I’m useless for the day—which is very true. Literally the first thing I think of when I wake up is wehre will my coffee come from. If I’m working in Java Java that day, I head straight out to Kiawah, but if I’m hanging around Folly, then I go to Lost Dog to get me caffeine fix.
These days I drink double shots of espresso with whipped cream on top. As I've gotten older I really don't like all the sugary coffee drinks that are available or tons of milk. So the espresso with whipped cream has proven to be my happy place.
For drip coffee, I always take two raw sugars and cream. Or, if I have it, heavy whipping cream is the BEST!
I don’t know if it’s necessarily one piece of advice, but my grandfather owned a chain of grocery stores and then real estate and my father owned his own businesses. So I grew up in a family where everyone worked all the time. No one had a “job;” work was their lifestyle. I remember my Dad and I would go on road trips and the WHOLE time he would relate every conversation back to business—which as a 16-year-old I thought was very annoying because I just wanted to listen to music. But those conversations shaped me into being a business owner. Now I get it, I’m always thinking about the coffee shop and I’m always thinking of ways to improve or be better. It never really leaves my mind—there were so many bits of important information in those conversation that are really invaluable.
We have so many great “regulars” who come in almost every day and they are my favorite part of my day. I’ve been a Java Java for so long that they’ve seen me grow up. They are extended family and so many of them travel or are involved in interesting charities so talking with them is so fun.
Quality and consistency! Since I can’t do everything myself, I have to put trust in employees that they are making the products the best they can be. I’m always watching what everyone is doing and make sure the customer receives the same product every time they come in. Hiring good people, people who care, is key. It’s so easy, especially with the shortage of food and beverage people right now in Charleston to just hire bodies, but I really try to hold out for the people who have a genuine interest in this type of work.
Be the first one there and the last one to leave! It’s a ton of work, but honestly its so much fun and I’m so fortunate I get to be creative with food!