Steampunk, coffee and wine aren’t things one often sees in the same place, but visitors to the recently opened Java Punk Coffee get all three.
The coffee shop is a collaboration between owners and partners Stephanie Hinton and Vicki Willson, who creatively decorated the space to transport their customers to a science-fictional steam-powered era.
The décor, assembled from bits found at flea markets, thrift stores, on Facebook and Craigslist and at festivals, is steampunk all the way, with related relics spread throughout the shop.
It’s always been a dream for Hinton to run her own business, she said. When she was younger, the dream morphed from a music store to a bar, but it was always there. Willson, too, had dreams, but hers were of a tea shop.
“It just sounded like a natural thing to do,” said Hinton, who has a background in food service. “[Plus] we’re both nerds and we love steampunk. We’re both into sci-fi and fantasy and the colors for steampunk: the Victorian [themes], the rich woods, all of that, is a nice warm environment.
“… Even if you don’t know what steampunk is, it’s pretty inviting.”
But they’ve had to work hard to get it to this point, and the coffee shop, Hinton said, is like a baby.
“You worry about it all the time; it keeps you up at night; it constantly needs things. You have people you trust to watch your ‘baby,’ but you can’t quite let go because something could happen,” she said.
The shop offers a community table with an enlarged, wall-mounted Scrabble board and other games that let friends and strangers engage.
“People will sit down there and they will start on opposite sides, because they don’t know each other, and before you know it, they’re playing Scrabble, or another game, and they’re laughing and talking, meeting people and making friends,” Hinton said. “It’s pretty nice.”
The shop also serves as a gallery for local artists, hosts a game night and will soon offer a class on stained glass. It also hosts gaming groups and book clubs, and guests can entertain themselves searching for hidden objects, such as miniature knights, placed throughout the shop.
Java Punk serves coffee, tea, soda and specialty drinks and it’s a tasting room for The Sweet Elephant at Vino Colorado Winery. Soups, quiche, scones and other baked goods are also available.
During its soft-opening stage, the pair saw a slow but steady increase in business, and the spot began to attract regulars.
A scavenger hunt was part of the March 10 grand opening, which was attended by Colorado Springs’ local steampunk group TESLA as well as Denver’s United Nerd Alliance and other groups and individuals that may, or may not, identify as nerds.
Before opening Java Punk, Hinton owned her own graphic design business, but this is her first go at brick-and-mortar. The first month of business has been nerve-wracking, admits Hinton.
“You start at a deficit whenever you open a business — you put everything you have into it. Those first few weeks you worry if you’ll get enough people in so you can pay your labor costs, inventory and rent and everything else. … But then it’s awesome because you start seeing regular faces, getting feedback and watching it grow. … It’s getting to where we can breathe a little bit. … We’re just concentrating on our quality and customer service and making it to where people feel at home here,” she said.
Supporting local businesses is also a priority for the duo. They source locally from The Sourdough Boulangerie, Cacao Chemistry, Organica Herb & Tea Co., and Inertia Coffee Company. Sodas are from Rocky Mountain Soda Company in Denver.
“We don’t offer things because of cost, we offer things due to taste,” said Hinton.
She said the local coffee industry has been welcoming.
“The little coffee shops band together and work together, which is nice,” said Hinton. “Everybody I’ve met with has given me good advice and support.”
Both Hinton and Willson came to Colorado Springs in 2002 (Hinton is from Georgia; Willson grew up in Arkansas) and Hinton said she wanted to create a place on the city’s Eastside that would create community for those who live along the Powers Corridor.
“I like what this place is becoming,” Hinton said. “When you hear adults laughing at a mindless little game or they check out the [submarine-themed] bathrooms and they start laughing or exclaiming, ‘You gotta come see this!’”
Java Punk Coffee
Location: 4029 Tutt Blvd.