From the heart … JOY through coffee

WORDS: Ben Glennon PHOTOGRAPHY Issac Lawlor

Ben Glennon from JOY Organic Coffee Roasters takes ORM on a journey of JOY through coffee and the coming together of community during a global pandemic.

If COVID has taught me anything, it’s the importance of our community. Never before have we had to rely on our neighbours, family and friends to get us through some of the toughest times many of us have experienced in our lifetime.

We’ve been in a really interesting position watching the new COVID normal unfold on the Gold Coast during the past eight months.  Like many small businesses, we were in a state of shock at our café and roasting headquarters, JOY Café and Roastery in Burleigh Heads, for the first few weeks of the pandemic. Like people around the world, we wondered what our immediate and long-term future looked like. How will this impact our daily life, our family’s lives, our friends’ lives? Like most of the world, we felt lost and uncertain about what was around the corner.

Slowly, week by week, we saw the incredible power of our community grow stronger by the day.  As a small boutique roastery supplying cafes around Australia, we, like our wholesale partners, were hit hard in the hospitality sector.  As things grew harder in those early weeks, it was as if our customers put their hands around us and banded together to keep us strong.

As restrictions eased and we were slowly allowed to have more customers through the door, we found our beautiful regulars adding a few things to each order – an extra morning treat, shouting a coffee for a friend or buying a bag of our freshly roasted coffee for a much-needed hit during the week’s zoom meetings.  It was a weird and wonderful time, as we saw the beauty of humanity out in full force.  We noticed that our customers were intentionally supporting us, their local café, when we needed it most. I noticed I was doing it too – visiting the local bakery more often, intentionally getting takeaway from my favourite local restaurant and buying handmade gifts online from Aussie businesses.

For us personally, this pandemic hit close to home. My wife and co-owner of JOY, Patty, has had to watch her father recover from COVID in hospital. After almost a month in ICU, and several weeks on a ventilator, we didn’t know if we would see him again.  That’s a powerful thing.  It’s made us see life differently and realise the power of having a strong community behind you during tough times.

We rely on each other more than we know  – and that’s one of the reasons I’m thankful for the year that was, as tough as it’s been.

I like to think it goes both ways, too. Our customers sought familiarity and routine during a tumultuous time via that daily coffee – seeing a familiar face and having a chat about how life is really going.  I’ve had some heartbreaking conversations with regulars who lost their jobs, had to stand down employees or endure the pain of not seeing loved ones. It’s been such an honour to see those customers through these times and to be entrusted with their stories. A place to belong, be seen, listen and be listened to – that’s what community is to me.

So I guess in a way, this is a thank you letter.  Thank you to all of our regulars, for seeing us through a tough time. Thank you for letting us be part of your tough time. Let’s share more love, more community and more JOY into the new year.