Local favorite Java Werks coffeehouse reopened in April 2013 under new management, bringing new flair and ideas to the business.
Students were disappointed when longtime owners Ken and Pamela Hill closed the restaurant due to health problems. According to the Hattiesburg American, Hill received many offers from other restaurateurs before deciding to sell to Cesar Potenza and his wife, Marbelis Potenza.
Potenza said after he and his family moved from Valencia, Venezuela, they knew they wanted to open a restaurant in Hattiesburg.
“We wanted to (become) more integrated with the community,” Cesar Potenza said. “(We saw) that this place was for sale and we love coffee, so we thought, ‘Okay, let’s get the coffee place and introduce Venezuelan cuisine.’”
The key South American touch to the classic coffeehouse menu is the addition of arepas, which is an authentic Venezualan gluten-free food made of a white cornmeal patty filled with a choice of beef, chicken or pork. “There is a downside,” Potenza said. “You may be hooked.”
Despite the new management and the new Venezuelan additions, all the favorites have remained at the traditional student haunt. Java Werks still sells their menu standards such as the Hollywood Blondie and the Golden Eagle.
“We have a very good customer-orientated (business) and most of them are getting to know us as a family,” Potenza said. “Right now, most of (our customers) are from the community. We’re looking to integrate USM into our circle.”
Whitney Randall, a senior theatre major and Java Werks employee, said she enjoys serving the customers and how the coffeehouse has become like a small community.
“We have our loyal regulars who come in and know me by name,” Randall said. “One of my professors practically lives here in his off time.”
One of the efforts the new management has put forth to attract university students is the addition of their new text ordering service. Potenza said upon a customer’s first visit, they will receive the Java Werks text service number.
Then, anytime the customer desires coffee or food, they merely have to text the service number given with their order as well as an estimated time of pickup. Then they can simply breeze through the front door, pick up and pay for their items without waiting in line.
Potenza is also willing to bend the hours for larger late-night study sessions. He said he had often heard that many students would want to study past 8 p.m., which is their closing hour.
“If students want to come over and (study), I’m willing to do that, just let us know,” he said. “If a group of students, maybe 20 or so, want to come if the library is full, I’ll continue that tradition.”
There is also a constant stream of live events occurring at Java Werks, whether it be music or performance art. In fact, USM’s own improv troupe, the Stage Monkeys, will perform Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. The coffeehose will host Live Trivia sessions occasionally and even the Irish band Boreen will perform Oct. 18 at 6:30 p.m.
For more information about Java Werks, check out their Facebook and Twitter page for updates on events and daily specials.