Coffee, like so much of life, was served up differently in the 1990s. Otis Orchards staple Jack and the Bean Shop first sprouted up amidst rows of VHS tapes inside a store called Treasure Aisle Video.
In the early 2000s, the video store and Jack and the Bean Shop both moved diagonally across the Harvard-Wellesley intersection — the coffee shop into the location it is still in today, the video store into separate space next door. (Eventually, Treasure Aisle went the way of all video stores, and a fitness center occupies that space these days).
In 2009, Jeremy and Christa Gray purchased Jack and the Bean Shop from the Guthrie family that founded it. Already invested in the Otis Orchards community, the Grays were looking for new directions following the crash in the housing market. In those days, Jeremy built spec homes through his business, Gray Homes.
“I was literally just wondering what I was supposed to do; I was bidding jobs and just not getting anything,” Jeremy recalled. “I went on Craigslist and came across this coffee shop being for sale.”
The Grays were entrepreneurs who loved coffee. Just as importantly, they loved Otis Orchards.
“Being in a community is cool,” Jeremy said. “People know us, and we know them. … You make these connections with people.”
The Grays were purposeful about their increased partnership in the community, investing in their local church and schools. Jeremy admits to being a bit surprised by just how much of a family element exists in a small town coffee shop filled with regulars, whether its joining in a celebration or grieving together over a loss.
“One of the hard parts is the demographic we serve; we’ve seen a lot of our customers pass,” Jeremy said. “That’s a side of it you don’t even think about. You get connected to these people, they come in every day, and then all of a sudden their wife comes through (with news).”
Jeremy, who was in the shop every day for the first couple years after purchasing it, quickly noticed something else about the regulars: They liked most things just fine the way they were. A new name, logo and some coffee-centric changes Jeremy had in mind were eventually scrapped.
“I felt like I wanted to go a different direction almost completely, but as we started to make some of those choices, we really started to alienate the people who had been coming here for 14 years,” Jeremy recalled.
Today, he has embraced it, noting part of the character and vitality of Jack and the Bean Shop lies in its consistency.
“Still, at its core, it’s probably pretty similar to what it was (when it first opened),” he said.
Meanwhile, the Grays doubled down on their coffee adventure, purchasing a struggling drive through in Cheney eight months after purchasing Jack and the Bean Shop. Bahama Joe’s turned into a popular Cheney shop before closing in 2019, when the property owners decided not to renew the Grays’ lease on the shop and began operating from the location themselves.
Along the way, the housing market recovered, and the Gray Homes business picked up along with it. Jeremy said these days his work is almost completely custom construction.
While Jack and the Bean Shop is a clever name, “I have no idea where it came from.” Jeremy would have changed the name if not for customers liking things just as they were.
“We just decided, is it really worth it?” he said. “It would be expensive to change all the signs and everything. So we just decided to stick with it.”
The vibe of Jack and the Bean Shop, in two words, would be “Otis Orchards.” This is reflected both in the pictures of the community that line the north wall, but even more importantly in the way Otis Orchards residents have supported and influenced the business over the years.
“There definitely is that small town vibe,” Jeremy said. “People know each other. We don’t get a lot of outsiders. We do get some because of the intersection, but definitely 90 percent of our customers are in the community and regulars.”
THE TOP PICK
Jack and the Bean Shop bakes its cookies, breads and prepares most of its food menu in house. While there are plenty of standouts regulars go back for, Jeremy said the Breakfast Burrito is the best seller. Both the bacon or sausage options are popular picks.
While he didn’t have one standout pick, the 12 varieties of loose leaf Maya Tea coupled with coffee from popular local roaster, DOMA, both create loyal followings.
“That draw of serving the coffee we serve keeps people coming back,” Jeremy said of the DOMA advantage.
THE CULT FAVORITE
While more of a summer treat, Jeremy said the Frizz Coffee has a loyal following. He recommends adding some root beer flavor — “It tastes exactly like a root beer float.”
On the food side, go with the cinnamon roll coffee cake, especially if you’re fortunate enough to capture it fresh from the oven.
Currently, a team of eight baristas serves the Jack and the Bean Shop community, and Jeremy said they are the main differentiator behind the success of the business.
“It’s the service,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have employees who care about what they do.”
THE TIME WHEN …
While it’s become a common occurrence over the years, Jeremy will never forget that truly Otis Orchards occurrence: the first time customers came through the drive-through on horseback.
“It happens often, but the first time was pretty funny,” he recalled. “I was like, ‘What is happening? Where are you going to put this? There’s no cup holder on a horse.’”
Jack and the Bean Shop
4707 N. Harvard Road, Otis Orchards
@jackandthebeanshop on Instagram
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