FALL RIVER — There has been little daytime activity at the JavaHouse Chew and Brew lately, leaving many to wonder if another restaurant has bid farewell to South Main Street.
But Keith Parker, who helps run the business owned by his wife, Kayla, says that’s not the case.
The cafe, a downtown staple for about six years serving sandwiches, salads, pastries, coffee and more, has closed to breakfast and lunch customers. But there is still life in space.
Parker said that over the past year, the couple have focused on private functions at JavaHouse, which opened in early 2016 at 139 S. Main St., the site of the former Arpeggio cafe.
“That’s what helps us survive,” he said.
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For years, JavaHouse was a frequent stop for hungry visitors and downtown workers heading to the store across from the Fall River Justice Center for a quick bite and a chat.
Parker said the decision to temporarily halt breakfast and lunch operations was not easy, but they couldn’t argue with the numbers.
“What’s happened over the last two years with small businesses in a demographic like Fall River, it’s cheaper to keep them closed,” he said.
JavaHouse remained open for about seven months after the outbreak of COVID, before finally closing, Parker said. They tried to reopen about six months ago, but he said they “couldn’t get any help and the daily bills exceeded the income received”.
According to Parker, many factors came into play to chart a new course for JavaHouse.
He cited pandemic-related struggles, which included the loss of customers due to the closure of downtown businesses, the prolonged closure of the courthouse across the street and the shift to remote work. for many regulars nearby.
Parker said JavaHouse, located in the Cherry & Webb building, was largely dependent on downtown customers. And patrons from other parts of Fall River, or out of town, faced very limited parking on South Main.
“When you’re just relying on downtown Fall River, that’s not going to happen,” he said. “And there’s no parking, so you don’t bring anyone from outside.”
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He also cited the low-income composition of downtown residents, inflation and difficulties retaining staff as contributing factors.
“Now the minimum wage is higher, the cost of food is higher, so the cost of doing business is much higher…and there are fewer people coming, so mathematically it doesn’t have a meaning,” he said.
“You can’t sell a Caesar salad in downtown Fall River for $21.”
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Currently, the company’s phone number and website listed on its Facebook page are not operational, and the Facebook page itself has been inactive since October 2020. Adding to the confusion, reviewers on Yelp report that the location has closed.
The good news is that although it now caters to a different audience, JavaHouse lives on and “we don’t want to go anywhere, we love the place,” Parker said.
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The cafe-turned-private event space — renovated a few months ago with updated decor and new floors — can accommodate 50-60 people, who have the choice of ordering the JavaHouse menu or simply renting the space and attending. bring their own catering.
“It’s a great space, and it’s a nice cafe with a liquor license,” Parker said.
Parker, who was a partner at the now closed South Main Street Taphouse Grille restaurant, said their private events menu was very similar to Taphouse’s past offerings.
So far, Parker said they’ve held a number of baptisms, confirmations, birthday parties and political events, picking up business mostly by word of mouth.
JavaHouse functions are by appointment only. Those interested in booking a party can do so by texting 508-493-9391 to check availability.
Parker said the couple’s intentions are to eventually reopen the cafe full-time. They hope to be able to do this by the fall, likely with more limited hours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to catch the lunch crowd. They will continue to rent the space at night.
“It’s a good location, it’s a good place,” he said. “Times don’t warrant it right now, but times will change, they always do…and we care enough about Fall River to weather the storm.”