GREENVILLE — Along with water, coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world and one with a richly storied history. Its origins date back to the 13th century, possibly earlier. First drunk in Ethiopia, it spread to Egypt, the Middle East, Europe, and eventually, America.
Coffee houses — establishments where friends could gather to discuss the issues of the day — followed soon after. In recent years, coffee houses have gained a popularity unseen since Allen Ginsberg sipped espresso with Jack Kerouac in some basement shop clouded with cigarette smoke and political upheaval.
In Greenville, the coffee shop to hang in has, for many years, been what is currently Julie’s Coffee House. The name has changed over the years, along with the shop’s ownership.
The “Julie” in Julie’s Coffee House is current owner, Julie Blizzard. She took over ownership of the establishment in 2011, after having worked there since 2003. In her years there, many of those who come through the doors have become more like family and friends than simply customers.
But at the end of this month, that era will draw — with more than a little regret — to a close. That’s when Blizzard plans to close up shop and move to Arizona, where her new husband presently resides. The two were married Sept. 29, 2012, and have been forced to “commute” since then in order to see each other.
“Our visits have been monthly,” Blizzard said. “(We’ve known) one of us would have to relocated in the spring. I am very excited to join him May and begin our married life.”
The move is very bittersweet, however. Not only will Blizzard be saying goodbye to the life and work she has known for over a decade, she is also leaving behind a town and friends she loves.
“The best thing (about being here) was watching my dreams come true through hard work, determination and the support of an incredible community,” Blizzard said. “Greenville has become my home over the past 10 years. I will always feel a part of this town.”
Blizzard’s clientele, many of whom are staunch supporters of the coffee house, tend to return that sentiment.
Grand Rapids resident and regular Julie’s customer Ellen Paulsen says she stops in at least once every couple months to stock up on her favorite beans. According to Paulsen, she drives out of her way during commutes between Grand Rapids and Edmore, simply because she likes the shop’s “atmosphere.”
“It’s a friendly kind of place,” Paulsen said.
For her part, Blizzard has a hard time talking about the shop’s closing without tearing up. The idea of leaving behind a place that has for so long occupied her waking hours, that she has put so much sweat equity into, is not easy for her.
She lists “watching the business close around me and the impact on the families left without income” as among of the worst experiences in her life.
“I have made incredible friends,” she said. “I have been blessed with seeing children grow, babies born and other reaching their own goals. I have been privileged with glimpses into so many lives.”
As to what she will do once she gets resettled in Arizona, Blizzard is uncertain. She may start a new business, she says. Then again, she may not.
Though she’s leaving a past behind that she says she will dearly miss, Blizzard remains excited about her future.
“You just never know,” she said.