The real Joe’s Coffeeshop is looking for a new home in the changing city

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A local community space A real Joe’s Cafe will soon move to make way for a new apartment building on W. Anderson Ln., a situation owner Josh Brown calls a “brutal blow.”

The coffee shop has lived in the 100-year-old rustic shell of a former farm since 2005, when couple David Swainston and Victor Levy first opened the business. They left Austin in 2016 and turned the business over to longtime employee Brown.

Owner Josh Brown (left) prepares a drink in the espresso machine. (KXAN Photos/Cora Neas)

Brown describes the business as “community first” and talks about the building as a collaborative art project of the staff. He’s never worried much about competition from other coffee shops in the area, as the cozy cafe offers more than just coffee and espresso.

“It’s a completely different business. [Other coffee shops] they have a very different, much more disconnected model,” Brown said. “Community can arise anywhere. But I know for sure that the community is not at the center of their business models.”

The community has grown around Genuine Joe’s like a garden, and Brown credits that as a factor in helping the business survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I spent a lot of time here alone, waiting for people to come. But something exploded, resulting in the community now being stronger than ever,” Brown said. “[Community] grows on its own, but you have to make sure you have the right conditions.”

During the pandemic, Brown ran the business without taking a salary, started biking instead of driving, and was assisted by employees who volunteered their time. He helped employees sign up for relief funds and managed only business-critical equipment.

But it was at the height of the pandemic when he was told the land was being sold off by them.

Brown said. “It almost felt like someone was saying, ‘Hey kids, you had to learn one way or another that it’s stupid to care about anything, nothing is permanent and everything will be taken away from you by someone with more money. ”

In response, business started a GoFundMe fundraiser with a goal of $10,000. Once the fundraiser began, regulars began frequently reaching out to Brown asking how they could help. So far, 78 people have donated, raising $6,178.

The real Joe’s situation reflects a changing and growing Austin. It is emblematic of the “weird” Austin that is slipping away, pushed out by the fast and aggressive real estate market.

“People don’t do local business in this town anymore. They are proof of concepts to attract investors,” Brown said. “That’s what it feels like, a new business in Austin. When I come in, I feel alienated a lot of the time.”

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