More than likely, Starbucks has probably invaded a city near you. Sure, the coffee is pretty good, but chains like Starbucks don’t add a lot to a community’s character and charm. Luckily, there are still unique and independent coffee shops that make our cities vibrant and full of life, like Lemonjello’s in downtown Holland.
Lemonjello’s first opened in 2003 by a young graduate named Matt Scott. Shortly after graduating from Hope College, Scott went on tour with his band, Annie’s Apology, and noticed something interesting about the all-ages venues he was playing at; they couldn’t stay in business. After playing at several coffeehouses, Scott noticed that most places either “served a good beverage but weren’t good at promoting events, or they were great at events but didn’t have good products to sell to pay the bills.”
Lemonjello’s has mastered both.
Scott took a break from touring in 2003 and began working part-time at a restaurant in downtown Holland. When the restaurant owner saw his business plan, he offered the space to Scott. Lemonjello’s has resided in this spot for the past 8 years now, making it “one of the longest-running all-ages venues in this part of the world.”
It really does have a great location, and this probably accounts for some of Lemonjello’s major successes. Sitting on the corner of 9th St. and College, right between the Hope College campus and downtown Holland, Lemonjello’s attracts college students and downtown patrons alike. It’s always lively inside, making it an easy place to spend a few hours drinking coffee, reading, or chatting with close friends.
Walking into Lemonjello’s is simply refreshing. Bright yellow, dark red and deep blue paint cover the walls. One of the walls is home to a small rotating art gallery, which only displays work from local artists. A collection of gnomes are scattered around the floor, tables, and shelves, giving Lemonjello’s a kitschy-but-cool look. There’s also outdoor seating on a covered patio once the summer months are upon us.
There is something conspicuously missing from Lemonjello’s however, and that would be a trash can. The coffeehouse is aiming for zero waste. Instead of throwing away things, customers are encouraged to leave their trash so that it can be properly sorted for recycling or composting. Since removing trash cans and utilizing corn-based and other compostable containers, Lemonjello’s usually only throws less than one bag of trash away each day, and according to Scott it “isn’t any more expensive.” Environmental sustainability is important to Lemonjello’s, and it definitely shows.
The drinks you will find are just as delightful and unique as the place itself. All of the coffee sold at Lemonjello’s is fair trade—yet another reason why choosing the local coffee shop over Starbucks is a wise choice. Along with the coffee shop standards –coffee, tea, and smoothies– Lemonjello’s sells “mood lattés,” which have names like “stress reliever,” “indecisive” and “lemoncholoy.” Bubble tea –chilled and flavored black or green tea with tapioca balls (the bubbles) at the bottom– is another Lemonjello’s favorite. If you’re looking for soda, try the “Green Army Guy,” which comes with a green army man resting at the bottom of each cup. An assortment of baked goods (the muffins are especially tasty), chocolate, fruit, vegetables, and vegan chili are also readily available for snacking.
People don’t go to Lemonjello’s just for the drinks, though. They host great live music, typically on Fridays and Saturdays. All sorts of musicians, from folk to hardcore, perform in the intimate setting; Sufjan Stevens even played there when he was just a local act. There’s also an open mic night on the first Wednesday of every month. So go ahead and check out the great Lemonjello’s; you won’t be disappointed. ~Mike Guisinger
To find out more about the menu, location, or concert schedule, click visit their website!