On November 20, 2013 — 2 days before her 25th birthday — Breanna Brandon arrived in Westport from Boise. She was the newly appointed manager of Java, the Idaho-based coffee shop about to open its 6th store here.
Breanna had never been to the East Coast. She’d decided to take the job 5 minutes after it was offered — “my whole life was in Idaho, but there was no reason not to come” — and then googled both “Westport” and “New England.”
She expected to see “a lot of celebrities. People who were blatantly rude. And I thought I’d get run over.”
Breanna quickly found out she was not in Kansas anymore. And certainly not Idaho.
The feeling she got here was “electric. It was like vibrations.” She still feels it today. She loves it.
“In Idaho, people take more time. Here, if you have an idea, you can run with it. There’s a feeling here that people are so capable, so quick. It’s exhausting, but it’s so much fun.”
One day, an idle conversation led to the idea of Movie Nights at Java. By evening she had bought a projector and screen. Two weeks later, she screened her first film.
Breanna was a Java lifer. At the downtown Boise shop she worked her way up from night barista to kitchen chef, baker, then supervisor. Her earnings helped pay for college.
She loved the human connection she felt at the Idaho store. “It sparked my spirit,” she says.
That connection continued here. “There are 1.5 million people in Idaho, and 3.5 million in Connecticut,” she notes. “But you can fit 17 Connecticuts into Idaho.”
People here are not rude, she says. But they are busy.
“They don’t have time to wait in line,” Breanna explains. “But they’re honest. They told me what they didn’t like. They also told me what they loved.”
After just 11 months in business downtown, Java is closing on Wednesday (December 31).
“It breaks my heart,” says Breanna. “I’ve made connections that will last a lifetime. I’ve seen people evolve — have babies, come back from college. And they’ve seen me evolve.”
Breanna got as much out of living here as anyone could. She found an apartment on Craigslist near the train station. She went into New York often.
Locally, she put her political science background to use. She attended Town Hall meetings. She hoped to join the transit committee. She studied how the town operated, and says, “it runs really well. There are great schools, and an amazing sense of community.”
She also was thrilled to meet Governor Malloy, when he came to Java.
She’ll be back in Boise, though. Her family is there; so are some job offers. She’d like to get a masters degree in public policy, or maybe go to law school. Her goal is to work in government.
She hopes one day to live in Seattle. Or Brooklyn. Maybe even Westport.
“I love it here,” she says. “I survived. I feel like I really made it.”
Breanna touched many Westporters. Regulars — and 1st-time customers — loved her spirit, her energy, her openness.
One of her fans was Stephen Goldstein. The Westport artist creates portraits by hand-cutting license plates, then mounting them on painted aluminum.
His latest work hangs on a Java wall. It shows a smiling Breanna Brandon. Of course, it’s made from Idaho tags.
“I’ll cherish it forever,” she says. “It’s coming home with me.”
Breanna will take that — and much more — from Westport back to Boise. Thankfully, she leaves a lot of Idaho goodness behind.