Java Joe’s
“down by the station”
Princeton, IL







Jump off the Zephyr that rolls from Chicago to San Francisco, and you may land in the small town of Princeton Illinois. Need some java? Mosey over to Java Joe’s, half a block from the train depot. If ever there was a startling mix of the old and the new, it is in this coffee shop. Nope, they don’t serve day-old coffee and stale biscuits. But the place! It used to be a rural/small-town hardware store, and if you squint enough to cut out the glare (of contemporary sale items), it still looks like the 1900’s. The original stamped-metal ceiling is intact, the nail storage bins and old boxes still grace the old wooden shelves, and the sliding ladders remain, still used, hanging from their tracks on the ceiling. The door, its layers of paint slathered on over the years, and probably the ceiling schoolhouse lights and fans as well, are original. A lovely stained-glass window lets in a modest amount of light, but new-fangled LED or Christmas lights brighten the roomful of merchandise. Zoom into the merchandise alone, and you’d think you were in Kitchen Kaboodles or Happy Chef or some other big-city specialty store, with lots you want but most of which you already have in older, less colorful or cleverly-presented versions (a scrub brush without the giraffe spots and tall neck with ears on it, for example). The satisfying thing about Java Joe’s—and its host shop Beetz Me—is that they didn’t gut the place when they brought in the new stuff: how nice it is to preserve old beauty! The sheer quantity of stuff for sale, along with the many “bric-a-brac” decorations, makes it seem a bit overdone, but, fortunately, the genuine antique structure holds its own and makes the place worth a visit, even if you’re short on souvenir spending money.

Fare:   My coffee was $1.75, and they served the typical coffee drinks, including lattes and mochas. Also, because it is nearly summer,  iced everything. And some sweets, including candies.

Service and clientele: Two women cared for the entire store, but the coffee section had a separate name. They spent most of the time I was in there chit-chatting with another customer, but I was served promptly. No one else was in the coffee section: to see more locals, maybe I should have come at 6 a.m. when the roosters wake the farmers! I believe the place really wants to attract the Chicago(ite) who has strayed from home, or the tourist traveling I-80 west (hence the mass of stuff for sale), though, not the practical farmer.

Rating: 2 (of 5 coffee beans). Fun for window shopping and history-viewing, but coffee aspect was run-of-the-mill.