The coffee window is wide open and really, really busy

Angela Hill, photographed in the Java Dock and serving coffee through its famous window, and her husband Andy have turned the need to have customers line up outside for coffee drinks into a business success. Turn to page 3C for the story.
Ozaukee Press staff

If an award were given for the most popular business innovation in Port Washington in the last two years, the Java Dock coffee window would be the odds-on winner.    

The coffee shop’s window on Grand Avenue is a small sliding pane, but it has attracted a large following of coffee drinkers who have made the morning caffeine ritual an al fresco event.

Whatever the weather, people line up to order coffee drinks through the window, exchange friendly banter with the baristas and chat with others in the coffee queue.

The Java Dock had a barely-used walk-up sales window before Angela and Andy Hill bought the business in 2019. But the Hills expanded on the idea to the point where, according to Angela, it now accounts for 80% of their sales.

What’s more, the window was a crucial key to keeping the business viable during the pandemic.

The new owners had barely reopened the shop they had closeds briefly for remodeling when indoor dining was shut down by state order.

“That window during the pandemic was very important to us to keep working and be part of that normal routine,” she said.

Customers new and old who started their day with coffee-shop coffee came to patronize Java Dock from the sidewalk.

The Hills even taped numbers on the sidewalk so people could stand far enough away from each other to be socially distanced. Lines often ran beyond the tape.

Once customers reached the front of the line, socialization started once again. Angela joked that it was the “confession window.” Since so many businesses were closed and events canceled, Java Dock became an outlet for people to talk about their families and the virus.

Java Dock customers come for more than coffee. In fact, Angela said, “Coffee was just kind of a caveat that came with the shop. The kitchen is where the passion is for me.”

Angela worked 11 years as a physical therapist, but her heart was in a different place.

“I’ve always wanted to open a cafe,” she said. “I enjoy feeding people. I think food makes people happy.”

Buying the Java Dock gave the Hills their second small business. Andy has operated Elegant Estates, an interior and exterior painting business, since 2002.

But it was Angela who would run Java Dock.

Her parents weren’t thrilled.

“I think they thought we were crazy,” Angela said. “You’re educated, you had a good job,” were their thoughts.

But the Hills were determined to make it work. The extensive improvements they made in the quarters at 116 W. Grand Ave. included a remodeled kitchen for Angela to pursue her cafe dream. The menu was expanded to

add homemade soup, sandwiches, salads, breakfasts and fresh bakery.

“Everything is made from scratch,” Angela said. “The Java Dock doesn’t own a microwave.”

Angela said it’s special owning a cafe in her own community and meeting friends of her two children’s friends, their parents and teachers.

She is focused on increasing the use of Java Dock’s upstairs room, which can be used for dining and is rented for meetings, parties and events. Open mic is held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Angela would like to work with schools to hold open houses for artists.

Meanwhile, business at the coffee window continues to thrive.

Java Dock staff members know the names of many of their customers they serve through it and are picking up some new ones since the Smith Bros. Coffee Shop closed.

Some window customers bring their best friends along. Java Dock caters to canines with water dishes on the sidewalk and goodies inside.

“Their dogs even stop at the window now. They won’t leave until they get their treats,” Angela said.

 Like most businesses, the Java Dock is being challenged by the difficulty of hiring staff and getting supplies.

“But on the bright side,” Angela said, “business is good, people are happy and healthy, and I get to do what I love.”




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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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