Written by Jeff Langley. Media by Bri Philips.
This could get ugly. How could such a thing have happened? Our Ace Coffee Culture Correspondent in the field winced at one of many similar scenes: two baristas from two different shops, each equally competent and fiercely loyal to his and her own establishment… lumped together in the same COR group, they sat staring daggers across the table. “We could all just meet at Jo’s,” offered the one, smugly. “Yeah, or Adam Brothers is always an option,” countered the other, with a look that could wither the beard of President Bergen.
It is no small task to maintain a coffee shop in a rural community, even given the presence of a college. Greenville is blessed with two charming cafés which have been scraping by for a few years now, thanks to the support of what is largely a shared clientele. It is that latter detail that piqued the interest of our correspondent, who noticed a plentitude of shop-hoppers that both establishments claim as
regulars—indeed, employees of both Jo’s and Bros can often be found darkening the rival’s doorway, without sheepishness or apparent malice. This inspired a line of inquiry to get at the root of what brings folks to Jo’s and/or Bros, and to hopefully offer some peace to the bickering COR 401-ers depicted above.
The quest began with a perusal of each establishment’s menu, and some nosing around into the sources of these products. Jo’s proudly brews Kaldi’s coffee, whose beans boast Fair Trade certification. Adam Bros’ roaster is Mississippi Mud, local to the St. Louis area. Mud has a line of FTO certified products in addition to their normal stock, and Adam Bros has been regularly serving the Mexican blend from this respectable supply. “What about prices?” asks the average joe-drinking Joe, who may not care how his or her (Josephine?) beans have been procured. Adam Bros’ cost to the customer is slightly favorable, especially when it comes to refills.
Our agent in the field knew he would have to log some observational hours at both locations and schmooze with the patrons to assess the quality of each business’ products. Fortunately, he loves coffee and schmoozing and undertook the task with caffeine-fueled vigor. (In fact, the entirety of this piece was composed on-site at both locations.)
Patrons who confessed to frequenting both shops were asked to rate each by the following categories: regular brewed coffee, espresso drinks, food, and atmosphere. Here is what we have found:
By a general (though no means comprehensive) consensus, Adam Bros’ brew is usually preferable.
On the other hand, customers expressed greater favor for Jo’s espresso drinks.
Food was a tossup, though. Folks are especially fond of Adam Bros’ homemade baked goods and salsa. AB has also recently developed a breakfast menu, which has been gaining popularity.
Folks are also fairly split on the question of atmosphere. Many enjoy the roughhewn, retro feel of Adam Bros, though are less than enthused about the seating—Jo’s cozy chairs and couch are preferred over the diner booths and pew-like wood benches at AB. The overall layout and décor of Jo’s also has a cheery charm that few will deny, though of an entirely different sort than that of Adam Bros.
Finally, different reasons take different people to the different locations. Jo’s is obviously most convenient for students, though many
appreciate having a nice place to study off campus. A number of interviewees said they are more likely to fill time between classes or work on group projects at Jo’s, but will take major homework assignments or social engagements to Adam Bros.
The end of the matter is this: both of these businesses deserve your attention and will make you feel welcome. The staff of each is friendly and competent, prepared to answer your questions and meet your expectations, and to listen to how your day is going.
In closing, let us return briefly to the scene above. However they may play up their supposed “rivalry,” the two baristas respect and enjoy each other’s shop, and had remarkably similar answers to the question “What do you like best about working at ____?” It’s the people, constantly catching up with old friends and making new ones. Coffee is great and they are proud to serve a quality product, but as the proverb goes—“Better a day-old cup of Maxwell House in the company of glad fellows than a French press full of gourmet Hacienda la Esmeralda’s Geisha coffee alone.” Or something like that.