Step into the KentJava Bar and you are immediately enveloped into its comfortable relaxing atmosphere. Baristas greet you with warm smiles and friendly service and your appetite is tempted by the fragrance of freshly brewing coffee and delicious homemade pastries. That is exactly the ambiance that owner Sherry Watson envisioned when she opened her coffee bar in December 2013.
An open house set for Dec. 14 will not only mark the facility’s seventh anniversary but celebrate its move to its current location at 110 E. Chestnut St., in the heart of Corydon’s historic downtown. Because the move happened in the midst of the COVID epidemic, it wasn’t possible to do a grand opening and ribbon-cutting then, Watson said. The upcoming event will also be a reveal for the spacious upstairs room. Decorated in mid-century modern style, the space is available to rent for small business meetings and will be used for overflow seating when it is not occupied.
Watson said that the decision to move didn’t come easily.
“When I opened (at the former location) I felt God 100%,” she said. “I just knew. It was like a lightbulb went off and I went full steam ahead.” It took a bit longer for her to feel his blessing on the recent move.
“When I opened (at the former location) I felt God 100%. I just knew. It was like a lightbulb went off and I went full steam ahead.”
“When the opportunity to rent the new space came up, I wasn’t as sure as I was the first time. I was getting ready to redo the kitchen (at the former location). I was going to replace countertops, floors — the whole thing. In fact, there was a contractor there doing some measuring when I was first approached,” Watson said. That was early last fall.
“At first I didn’t think too much about it. I wasn’t sure what to do. I checked with my business advisers and my family — the usual naysayers,” she added with a smile. “Nobody told me not to. But I wanted a clear sign to show me whether I was listening to God or to myself.
“Depot Capital Group from Brandenburg, Kentucky, the owners, were very patient with me, and in January I decided to move ahead.”
It may have taken Watson a while to decide, but when she did, she went forward quickly.
The move happened April 1. “We were closed for a week to get settled,” she said. “That was a very busy week.”
Besides all the details involved with moving, Watson had to deal with the COVID crisis.
“I gave my baristas the option to work or not,” she said. “One employee chose to keep working, and I brought my daughter in to help. She has helped me all along when I needed her. We cut our hours and were only open for carry-out. We offered call-ahead ordering and curbside delivery for no-contact service, and the three of us did what we needed to get through it.
Despite all the restrictions and new guidelines required by the State of Indiana and the local health department, the business has thrived, staying pretty steady throughout.
Despite all the restrictions and new guidelines required by the State of Indiana and the local health department, the business has thrived, staying pretty steady throughout. “Of course, with shorter hours, fewer people out and so on, business was down some. Then in mid-May, employees started coming back, people were out and about more, and we were able to extend hours. Business continued to pick up so much that we added additional baristas to our teams.”
The new location has brought more foot traffic and more sales, said Watson. “We are having to restructure how we manage the operations and hire additional staff to keep up with the new demands.”
KentJava Bar was started not only to fulfill a long-held dream, but to honor Watson’s late husband, Kent, who died of a rare type of cancer, angiosarcoma, in 2007.
KentJava Bar was started not only to fulfill a long-held dream, but to honor Watson’s late husband, Kent, who died of a rare type of cancer, angiosarcoma, in 2007. “This was a way to channel my grief and to contribute to the community as well,” Watson said. Part of her mission includes giving local musicians and artists a place to share their talents with the community.
“Before COVID, we had musicians performing, open-mike nights and other entertainment scheduled on a regular basis,” she said. That has to be done in a more limited manner now. “It is not likely to return in a big way in 2020,” said Watson, “but when it is safe, we hope to continue with many of the activities — and some new ones — that we had before.”
KentJava Bar’s specialty is quality coffee and espresso roasted weekly by Quills Coffee in Louisville. The coffee bar provides a place for people to enjoy hanging out with friends, work on a laptop, or sit and enjoy a book.
“The regulars always look forward to accompanying their cup of Java with an orange cranberry scone, or one of the other tasty homemade pastries,” Watson said.
The holidays bring special treats. This year’s Christmas season menu includes such latte flavors as cherry cordial, Christmas spice, gingerbread, Hansel and Gretel, holiday joy and peppermint patty, as well as its regular dozen or more flavors.
The holidays bring special treats. This year’s Christmas season menu includes such latte flavors as cherry cordial, Christmas spice, gingerbread, Hansel and Gretel, holiday joy and peppermint patty, as well as its regular dozen or more flavors. Sugar-free options are also available, as is regular gourmet coffee.
Watson is the former marketing manager at the Harrison County Convention and Visitors Bureau, where she worked for 13 years. She has succeeded at her business with the support of her four children — Josh and Jason Rowley and Peyton and Jordan Watson — and seven grandchildren who like to help out during special events like Light Up Corydon, she said.
“KentJava Bar has made a difference in the community by providing a safe place for people to gather and connect with one another,” said Watson. “It has sparked a new energy along Chestnut Street that continues to grow and flourish. I am grateful to the community for supporting us and thankful to be on this amazing journey. I am so blessed!” •
KentJava Bar is located at 110 East Chestnut Street in downtown Corydon. For more information, go to kentjavabar.com or call (812) 736-0032.
Story by Sara Combs
Photos by Michelle Hockman