New Coffee Shop Scheduled to Open
Aug 13, 2023
Two Lane Drive Through
by Charlene Homan
Published in North Eastside Neighbors
September 2023 Issue
Situated on the northwest corner of the former historic General Electric building lot in Bloomington rests a brand-new double-sided drive through coffee shop that offers not only a great cup of hot or cold java but Lotus Energy drinks, smoothies, lemonades, teas and in the near future pastries as well. The building is a former 9.5-foot-tall cube shipping container retrofitted to house the hip coffee bar.
“Jasper’s Java is named after our one-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, Jasper,” shares Melissa Livesay, co-owner. “He simply radiates love and joy. Much like Jasper’s very presence brightens our day, we intend to do the same for our customers. We will do that by providing craft quality beverages with fast friendly service.”
Gobena Coffee in Gridley, IL is Jasper’s roaster, and the coffee bar will soon offer packaged baked items like muffins and scones from Common Grounds in Gridley. Gobena donates 100 percent of its net profits and it’s reinvested in the lives of vulnerable and orphaned children throughout the world through their partnership with Lifesong.
The business is a family affair co-owned by Melissa and Curt Livesay and her stepsister Katherine Thalken and husband Bret Williams. While Melissa and Bret are originally from Bloomington-Normal, Curt and Katherine are from Iowa. Curt attended ISU where he met Melissa and they both attended the University of Iowa for their doctoral graduate degrees. As it happens, while there Melissa met Katherine’s father and introduced him to her mother and the two later married! Always the matchmaker, Melissa is also responsible for introducing Katherine to Bret.
“Jasper’s Java offers a wide array of drinks, including Indian coffee that our wonderful friends and neighbors have helped us to craft. We are always open to suggestions for new flavors and drinks!” shares the Java team. “In fact, we’ve hosted several frappe taste testing/rating parties and they are a blast! Many of our recipes are going to be unique because they’re based on Melissa’s baking recipes. She’s an excellent baker! So, it’s been fun to experiment and figure out how to translate recipes from baked goods into coffee drinks.”
Prior to moving back to Bloomington in 2022, the Livesay family lived in Washington state for five years. “While living near Seattle we noticed that the northwest lacked the warmth and hospitality of the midwest with one very noticeable exception: the coffee stands,” shares Melissa. “Even during rainy, dreary winters the coffee stand was a reliable source of comfort and we wanted to bring that back to the midwest. Shortly after getting settled in Bloomington, Curt noticed the giant parking lot of the historic G.E. building and saw great potential. The only problem was that he didn’t know who to contact about it. Some three weeks later a ‘For Lease’ sign went up for the building. Curt reached out to the landlord, the Sperry family, who also owns and operates Mechanical Devices, with a bit of a different proposition: ‘Rather than leasing us the building, would you be open to leasing us the parking lot?’ Mark Sperry was willing to listen, and the negotiations began.”
While the overall concept and vision has remained unchanged, there have been several bumps in the road along the way. Due to traffic flow concerns and other logistical issues such as tapping into city water and sewer, the site moved from the middle of the parking lot to the northwest corner.
Melissa shares, “All of this led to a much larger financial issue. Fortunately, right about this time, my sister Katherine and brother-in-law Bret expressed interest in partnering on the venture and Katherine and Bret joined the business. Katherine and Bret also brought much needed expertise in accounting, business administration, graphic design and overall tech expertise. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that Bret is a cold-brew junkie who’s become a bit of a brew master. So now Jasper’s operates as a blended-family-owned business that’s on a mission to help brighten the day of every customer who comes through either side of the swanky repurposed shipping container.”
Jasper’s Java’s mission is “Helping people and pets find their forever families.” Melissa shares this is a very personal message, adding, “We are a blended family. Katherine and I are stepsisters who are as close as any sisters can be and feel very blessed to call each other family. In working with Gobena and Lifesong Ministry for Orphans, we hope to pass on that blessing to others. Currently Lifesong has helped create over 10,000 new families through their work with orphan adoption, and we feel very passionate about helping that number to grow. Similarly, we are all pet lovers, and know how meaningful a pet’s companionship can be. In working with local shelters and area pet rescues, we hope to help more families experience the joy that having a pet can bring.”
“The biggest inspiration for our name – as well as general desire for the stand – is joy,” shares Melissa. “We chose Jasper as the stand’s namesake because he is the embodiment of joy. He’s always happy to see you, his tail is always wagging, and he can always manage to bring a smile to your face. We feel that coffee should be the same way… minus the wagging. We wanted to create a place where someone could go that would always be a bright spot in their day. Through friendly service and delicious drinks, our ultimate goal is to have everyone leave smiling, feeling a little bit brighter, just like we do when we see Jasper.”
The Java team notes that their vision for building this business is directly tied to our local community. “From conception to construction, we are passionate about utilizing our local assets including the businesses, contractors, and vendors that have helped us move this dream into a reality. We’re looking forward to showing our love and appreciation for this community, caring for our employees, working with our local suppliers and distributors and partnering with local organizations,” the team shares.
Curt and Melissa have two children, Elijah (7) and Abigail (3), two dogs, Ruthy and Jasper, and a cat, Mushy-Doo (Elijah named Mushy when he was three-years old). Elijah attends Metcalf and Abby will be starting at Bloomington Montessori School in August. Over the past year, Curt has coached intermediate Chess at Metcalf, soccer through PCSL, a McLean County Pony League baseball team, and basketball through the YMCA. Melissa, Curt, and Elijah all attend Coffrin’s ATA Martial Arts on G.E. Rd, just up the road from Jasper’s. Elijah and Abby also take swimming lessons through RKSA at the Four Seasons. The Livesay’s attend Compass Church near the airport. The family can frequently be found walking their dogs around the lake near their home in Tipton Trails.
Katherine and Bret are major foodies who love to support the local food and beverage scene and are passionate supporters of the arts community. After a recent battle with breast cancer last year, they are ready to jump back into living life and helping others. This is their first business venture, and they are super excited to be more involved with working in the community. They recently lost their two senior kitties, Bunny and Fate, that Katherine had adopted when they were young and had been such a wonderful part of their lives. They intend to adopt again soon when the time is right.