Address: 16 Colbrunn Court
Years in business: 3
Motto: “Coffee music life”
Colorado Springs transplant Randy Fair believes his coffee shop has it all.
The 45-year-old software developer — and father of 10 — has tasted drinks and eats from hundreds of mom-and-pop shops in states and countries around the globe, and became convinced that he could do it better.
At his Jives Coffee Lounge in Old Colorado City, just across the street from Bancroft Park, Fair is focused on maintaining a trifecta of specific attributes, and he said that most vendors fall short in at least one of those three traits.
“There are three things that I think coffee shops should have: atmosphere, service and good coffee,” he said. “I wanted all of it, and it’s arguable whether or not I hit that, but I think I did.”
For this reason, Fair is optimistic about competition in a market saturated by both independent coffee bars and drive-thru chains with bigger budgets and better resources.
The owner and his crew of young baristas aim to create an atmosphere at Jives that is reflective of the name itself, meaning easygoing, hip and swinging.
And by the look of the patrons — some relaxed, some chatty — it seems they’ve hit their mark. There is a reading corner with a literature-laden bookshelf, a few chessboard and checkerboard tables, a stage stocked with amps and stringed instruments and a genuine coffee bar.
“Atmosphere, I think, needs to go along with your community. I think that the whole thing is about building community,” Fair said. “This shop wouldn’t work on Powers like it does here.”
Fair said that this aspect is what he dislikes about Starbucks and other corporate coffee vendors, and that many of their locations tend to look and feel the same and often lack local character.
“I went there every once in awhile when there wasn’t a good ‘mom and pop’ around,” Fair said. “But if [Starbucks] was right across the street, I think I’d kick their butt.”
When Jives opened its doors in May 2010, Fair went with a Denver-based company called Novo Coffee to handle the roasting of his beans. Although Novo was fairly priced and did a great job, convenience and community soon led him to convert to SwitchBack Coffee Roasters Inc., an independently owned joint just a few blocks down West Colorado Avenue from his shop.
“It’s right down the street, it’s local, he’s my friend and I have complete control,” Fair said. “I can say, ‘that Ethiopian is too dark, we’re taking Ethiopian out,’ and he’s like, ‘all right, it’s your call.’”
Fair said that while some shops use beans that have been on a shelf for months, Jives has 50-60 pounds roasted and bagged each week so that every cup is as fresh as can be. But this also means that they sometimes run dry.
Jives sells the Indonesian (Sumatran), African (Kenyan and Ethiopian), and South American brews that have grown popular among the caffeinated, but every roast is tweaked for Fair’s palate.
Two of the more distinctive concoctions Jives offers are a highly caffeinated blonde espresso drink called the White Tiger and a brew just as potent called a Toddy.
And the roaster isn’t all that’s local. The brick walls of the large, 19th century rental space are adorned with local art, including two large murals reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s classic book, “Where the Wild Things Are.”
In fact, Fair allows local artisans to sell their wares on the walls of the shop, including those of customer-turned-barista Maurice Jacques.
Jacques started visiting the shop in April 2010, a month before Jives was ready to open. He said that Fair was the only barista for a time after the grand opening, so he found himself helping out when he could. Jacques, now 29, was hired to help behind the counter six months later and now says he wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.
“I don’t want to work for a corporation; I want to work for this place,” he said. “Because being a barista, especially for Jives, under Randy, is the best and most enjoyable job I’ve ever had.”
Both baristas think of excellent and friendly service as a vital part of the Jives experience, and it shows. They attribute their passion for serving others to one of the business’s mottos: “To be a blessing.” And the dozen or so young Jives employees all seem to agree, including six of Fair’s own kids.
“I think that if you concentrate on just [the community or just the coffee shop], you miss it,” Fair said. “There’s not enough money in this to be strictly about the coffee, but there are plenty of great relationships.”
Atmosphere, service and good drinks aren’t the only things that Jives keys in on: Fair is also intent on having high-quality and healthful foods. He said that there are no added preservatives in the turkey, the veggies and eggs are organic, and the bread is always fresh.
As for his business model, the trifecta is pretty much it. But Fair does hope eventually to own and operate 10 Jives locations, so that he may leave a legacy for his eight sons and two daughters when he’s gone.
The next step toward that goal will be the opening of a new location at 5865 N. Nevada Ave., which he hopes will happen next month.
“I think the concept will spread,” Jacques said. “A place where you can just relax and chill out and feel like you’re at home.”