Javapalooza Under New Management
t underwent a management switch on March 9, and the new owner, Andie Carrozzella, is in the process of transforming and revitalizing the cafe. Carrozzella, age 23, is the youngest store owner on Main Street, and she says she has big plans for Javapalooza’s future.
Under its previous ownership, Javapalooza had a mixed reputation in the community. After allegations in Dec. 2011 that the coffee shop’s previous owner, Neil Dinerman, grabbed an 18-year-old male patron by his collar and removed him from the building while shouting anti-gay slurs, many University students boycotted the eatery.
“I worked three nightmarish weeks under [the previous manager],” said Caiti Griffin, a Javapalooza employee. “He was a micro-managing asshole and made it a difficult work environment. I dealt with it because I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel, which was that Andie was in the process of buying Javapalooza. I held out, and the café has been glorious ever since.”
Carrozzella grew up in the Middletown area and attended the local high school. She graduated last spring from college in Florida and moved back to Connecticut in October. Upon her return, Carrozzella took a job at Javapalooza under the previous owner and helped him run the store. After a couple of months managing the cafe, the owner offered to sell it to her. After securing the financial means, Carrozzella accepted the offer. She said she is working to redeem its reputation among students and Middletown residents.
“I want to stress to the community that at Java, we will take care of you,” Carrozzella said. “The café is an open-minded, safe, and comfortable space for people to come and enjoy delicious food and drinks. Our staff is made up of happy, outgoing people. We want to make Java as inclusive and inviting as possible for all demographics, particularly Wesleyan students.”
The café will undergo physical, interior renovations in the next few weeks. Carrozzella additionally plans to consolidate and enhance the menu with vegan and vegetarian options in order to cater to the preferences of both the Middletown and University community.
“Javapalooza is the place to find only the highest quality coffees alongside an incredible menu of food items,” Carrozzella said. “Ninety percent of Javapalooza’s products are from local vendors. Our ingredients are fresh and brought to us by people we know in the area. We serve Avery’s sodas, which are manufactured out of New Britain, and a family owned pastry company delivers baked goods once a week. Nothing comes in wholesale.”
Carrozzella is also working to establish Javapalooza as a prime environment for aspiring artists and musicians.
“Every month we will have a local artist complete an installation on the main wall when you walk into the café,” Carrozella said. “The back section of Javapalooza serves as an additional exhibition space for local artists, and in the front we have a raised platform for musicians.”
The café is already booked through the end of May with musical acts and bands performing each Friday and Saturday night. According to Carrozzella, recent events have had large audiences.
“We want to extend our space to Wesleyan artists,” Carrozzella said. “I know the University has an outstanding music and arts scene. We would pay the band 10 percent of our earnings that night, have a tip jar set out, and promote them through our Facebook page. It would be awesome to get younger groups in here.”
Carrozzella is prepared with other ways of attracting the student body to Javapalooza. She plans to allow students to pay with Middletown Cash, and in the meantime, offers a 10 percent discount for all University students. In addition, Carrozzella hopes to begin a late-night delivery service of coffee and food to local residents and students. She is also looking to employ students during the summer months. Carrozzella explained that she will have a different management style than the previous owner.
“I love Java,” she said. “I knew this was going to be my place. It has been the biggest challenge of my life. Transitioning from a staff member to being the boss of the boss was hard. But I have such a small staff that it makes it easy for me to give them freedom and responsibility. I don’t need to be watching over them all the time.”
Carrozzella was a philosophy major in college, which presented a learning curve when she took over as owner of Javapalooza.
“I have never taken a business class,” Carrozzella said. “I studied philosophy, arts, English, and writing in college. To come from that background and begin running a business is incredibly challenging, but it is slowly becoming very rewarding. When I see happy customers who return regularly I think, ‘Wow, this is a place people want to be.’ This is what I was looking to do.”
According to Carrozzella, business is thriving. Staff members in particular are pleased with the new ownership.
“From the first day under [Andie’s] ownership, the shop has had a completely different, new, and good energy,” Griffin said. “The store feels so much happier. I encourage everyone to come check out Java and see what it’s like.”