Have you ever wished you had the perfect place where you could go to grab a coffee that didn’t make you feel like you were merely one of the masses? A place where you could meet friends, read a book, blog, or return emails that wasn’t your home, but felt like it. A place that showcased local artists and musicians, all while serving delicious food and building a community of its own.
Well, if you live in South Slope Brooklyn, you’re in luck. Roots Café is just that place. The brainchild of Jamey Hamm, it is an eclectic mix of everything that makes Brooklyn great with a touch of Alabama (Jamey’s home state). When Jamey’s wife decided she needed a little more adventure in life, the couple sold both their house and car, packed up a U-Haul, and headed north to what would become their new home in Brooklyn, New York. They landed in South Slope, which Jamey describes as amazing. “There is culture here. South Slope is diverse in every way. Age. Kids. Couples. Older People.” After living here happily for a year the retail space opened up and the couple thought, “Well, why not”. What began as just an adventure for the two of them would soon begin to impact the whole neighborhood.
COFFEE. COMMUNITY. CULTURE.
Jamey built his coffee shop on 3 principles: Coffee. Community. and Culture. While “coffee” comes first, it really serves as the vehicle to the latter two. Before you can even order your coffee you’re immersed in community and culture. He named what would soon become his home away from home “Roots” to ensure he stayed true to his Southern roots, bringing a little piece of Alabama to the Big City. He said, “Not only that but also planting new roots & growing in this great community.” We believe his customers would agree that Roots Café gives them a place to put down their own roots and become a part of the community as well.
From the outside Roots Café welcomes you, and we mean that literally. With it’s well-worn welcome mat greeting you from the sidewalk and it’s rustic awning, the coffee shop practically calls your name. As soon as you walk in there is a community board on your left so you can keep up with everything that is happening in the neighborhood. Immediately following that is an entire wall featuring a local artist’s work, which is updated every month. This month it’s Scott Ogden’s painted skateboards. Next month their neighborhood Tattoo shop, Leathernecks, will be featuring Halloween inspired artwork. Jamey is in charge of selecting the artists, but says it’s not hard because of all the talented customers and friends that visit the coffee shop.
The same goes for finding the musicians who perform live at the café every Wednesday and Friday night. The neighborhood is filled with talented people. And it’s quite possible the guy or gal who is entertaining you might have been the same person you struck up a conversation with over coffee earlier in the week. Jamey believes in sharing the space with musicians and artists, making Roots more than just a place to grab coffee.
The shop is completely filled with decor Jamey has personally collected and it’s constantly evolving. There is everything from a 1979 fabric calendar to an old framed photograph of a young actor playing the sheriff, who some people may recognize as Ronald Reagan. There are picture frames that spell out “Home Sweet Home” hanging above the coffee mugs that pretty much say it all. The furniture is so worn-in it makes you feel like you SHOULD stay awhile (which is the exact opposite of some other coffee chains that have signs forbidding you to sit unless you’ve bought one of their overpriced drinks). Jamey has pieced together the décor in such a way that it evokes a universal familiarity. There is a beautiful charcoal drawing of a young girl with her ukulele that is so familiar it reminds me of my cousin Kate.
The coffee counter is made of an old headboard that Jamey found on the street. It’s bold and has character and just happens to have belonged to one of their customers…who was in for a surprise one morning when she immediately recognized it. Behind the bar feels more like your mom’s kitchen at home complete with cabinets, curtains, and windowpanes. The bartenders are extremely friendly, exactly the kind of people you want to see first thing in the morning. And although we said coffee is just the means to bringing more community and culture to the neighborhood, Jamey did that right as well. Roots Cafe serves Stumptown Coffee – a company that has taken roasting to a whole new level bringing you bold, flavorful coffee. To say these people are passionate about coffee would be an understatement.
Sourcing out some other incredible goodies makes your experience at Roots Cafe even better. Blue Sky Bakery provides the pastries as well as Ka-Pow!, a gluten free dessert company. Be Alone delivers their fresh bread every morning and La Bagel Delight serves up the New York staple.
The patio out back is an oasis in the city. Sitting outside feels like you are in a top-secret tree fort. It is filled with unique treasures and a sense of history. Looking up you can see building after building and the open sky. It has a way of highlighting the downtime you are taking out of your hectic life to stop for a moment and enjoy it all.
Eventually Jamey wants the décor to be for sale. He loves adding new things and seeing the space evolve and change with the customers. He isn’t running his coffee shop by any type of “New York Rules,” which has worked in his benefit. He has been able to give his customers an experience that truly resonates with them.
LOVE JAC CARDS AT ROOTS CAFE
We were honored when Jamey asked us to sell our cards at his cafe. In the same way he finds the other artists to showcase in the shop, Jamey heard about us through a friend. Mary started the ball rolling and immediately we knew Jamey “got” us. He knows how much of an impact getting a note in the mail can have on someone. He believes our cards fit perfectly into the Roots’ community. In his first order, Jamey chose some of our quirkiest cards…. “Some people suck at life. Thanks for not being one of them.”…which features a photograph of what’s left of a stolen bike. And “I need you,” depicting a woman attempting to open a pickle jar.
It has been a goal of ours from conception to have our cards sold at a coffee shop…a place where people have the time to write a friend a note. Thanks to Jamey, we are now able to give his customers an opportunity to reflect on their relationships and show their appreciation for their friends, possibly making someone’s day in the process.
Jamey was on the same page as us from the beginning. He was into our idea of selling stamps with the cards to make it a little easier for his customers to get their card in the mail. He even took it one step further. If you address your Love Jac card and put it in his mailbox, he’ll mail it for you himself. Free of charge! Now that’s our kind of guy.
JAMEY’S HIGHS & LOWS
Before we left the café we had to ask Jamey his highs and lows of this incredible adventure. His answer was almost one and the same. Jamey is committed to making his coffee shop a place where people want to hang out. He has succeeded at this, making it his ideal place as well. The problem is it’s not too often that he can just lounge and enjoy it. There are bills to be paid, health inspections to worry about, and there is always something that has to be done. However, someone has to do it and creating the space has allowed him to watch everyone enjoy it. He has seen the community grow… people start dating, bands form, and he’s made a lot of good friends along the way. He loves the neighborhood and almost always sees someone he knows when he walks down the street.
Adding to the community is a number of businesses Jamey highly recommends. Lucky for Roots, they happen to have some good neighbors. South is their local bar. El Renico Familiar is their go-to Mexican restaurant. Big Apple has some great produce and Eagle Grocery has the best beer selection Jamey has ever seen.
So, we will say it again…we are honored to sell our cards at Roots Café and be a part of the beautiful and diverse community of South Slope, Brooklyn. It’s why we started Love Jac…to help you stay connected with your friends and family the old fashioned way. Next time you are in the area be sure to stop in. We hope to find many more coffee shops owned by passionate people who believe in their neighborhood. We wonder if Jamey and his wife knew all the good they would do when they packed up that U-Haul. Regardless, we’re happy they’re living the adventure.