Java Sparked Breanna’s Spirit. Then She Sparked Ours

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.

Breanna Brandon, in Java, with a portrait of herself. For the back story, read on.

Breanna Brandon at Java, with a portrait of herself. For the back story, read on.

“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.

Breanna Brandon, behind the Java counter.

Breanna Brandon, behind the Java counter.

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.”

In its 11 months here, Java quickly became a favorite downtown gathering place.

In its 11 months here, Java quickly became a favorite downtown gathering place.

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.

JavaBut on New Year’s Day, the beloved and funky coffee shop will close. SoNo Bakery takes over in a few weeks. Breanna hopes the new owners will keep most of the Java staff.

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.

Stephen Goldstein's portrait of Breanna Brandon.

Stephen Goldstein’s portrait of Breanna Brandon.

“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.

 

 

 

14 responses to “Java Sparked Breanna’s Spirit. Then She Sparked Ours

  1. Cheryl McKenna

    Such a lovely story and I wished I knew her now… The Leauge of woman’s voters of Westport and I would have loved to show her how our government works and why knowing about it helps inform our citizens on who to vote for.
    I hope you contact the LWV in Boise as this is a great way to continue your education in government.
    Westport will miss you and I for one am very sorry to see this bright light leave us before her time… or our time with her.
    Good luck and please come back to visit.

  2. That is such a great story! I hope Breanna does pursue her Masters’ Degree in public policy. We need people like her in government.

  3. Beautiful human interest story. I have been to Java several times and am sorry to say that I have not allowed enough time at checkout to “smell the coffee and get to know Breanna”. Best of luck to her.

  4. Why are they closing????

  5. Touching article and, oh, so sad. Java had a vibe that Starbucks could only dream about. And this gal is quite special too. I thought for sure that this joint was going to be around for a long time.

  6. Yeah, really…why are they closing???

  7. This is a wonderful place…coffee with an edge. Sono is a welcome addition, however this place will be missed. I wish someone would chime in on the real reason why such a successful business is leaving town so we can do better next time.

  8. Kimberly andrews

    Breanna is someone special and she will continue to be wherever she next lands!
    I remember meeting her shortly after Java opened. She was and always is cheerful, kind, helpful and knows all about customer service!
    As the high school youth minister at Christ and Holy Trimity across the street from Java, I asked Breanna if she might donate the leftovers one afternoon to our youth mission team who would be leaving at 3:00 am the following morning for Appalachia.
    Without hesitation she said of course, how many are going on the trip? I told her 24 and she said, I want your group to have fresh muffins , so she arranged for her team to make 2dozen beautiful , healthy muffins for our youth mission team before they left for the night. They were bagged and wating for us on the back stoop of Java at 3:00am!
    That defines who Breanna is! Java will be missed but Breanna will be missed more! Oh the places she’ll go!

  9. 1251 E. Holly St

  10. Sheila Woodward

    I was lucky enough to have this beautiful, energetic, gracious you lady in my fourth grade class. Wow! What a legacy she is leaving in her journey through life. Congratulations to her on all her great achievements and on those that I’m sure are yet to come. She is and always will be most welcome back in Boise. And she will always remain one of my favorite students ever…Always happy, cheerful and so full of life!

  11. I was lucky enough to have this beautiful, energetic, gracious young lady in my fourth grade class. Wow! What a legacy she is leaving in her journey through life. Congratulations to her on all her great achievements and on those that I’m sure are yet to come. She is and always will be most welcome back in Boise. And she will always remain one of my favorite students ever…Always happy, cheerful and so full of life!

  12. What a lovely story, Dan. Just wish it had a happier ending. I wish you well, Breanna.

  13. Sue Benzer Myers

    When I learned that my favorite breakfast hangout here in Boise was opening a store in my hometown, I made a point of asking about it on my next visit. Turns out, the person who took my order that day was Breanna and she happily said she was heading on a big adventure to open the shop in Westport. I am thrilled that she has loved my hometown as much as I love hers, though I wish the story wasn’t ending so abruptly. We welcome you and your adventurous spirit back to Idaho!

  14. Breanna Brandon

    I am truly honored. The love and support I’ve received from Westport will carry me for the rest of my life!
    (And how sweet, my favorite teacher writing such beautiful things!)
    I am so grateful (and humbled)! Thank you, thank you.
    My email address is BreannaBrandon@gmail.com for those who would like to keep in touch. It’d mean the world to me to hear from my favorite community on the East Coast.