By Nick Powell
Empty storefronts litter downtown Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and there are few spaces available for the artist and creative to unwind beyond the spattered display of pubs and crumbled, beaten sidewalks or alleys. Kim Jones and Eirean Bradley are attempting to change all that, though, with their new business Strong Style Coffee, which had their official grand opening on Saturday, September 1, 2018.
Bradley sat inside the new coffee shop with his partner and co-owner, Kim Jones, listening to the music overhead while waiting for an indie band to come by and perform. To their right, the artwork of the heart and spilt coffee bean logo sat stenciled against the glass of the nearby window.
“I’ve worked in the coffee industry forever. Kim was looking to get out of her line of work, she was hitting a burnout point. So, it was one of those ‘be the change you want to see’ type of thing,” said Bradley.
Bradley has been in the coffee industry for over twenty years, and had previously been a trainer and competitive barista, who has taught 1,000 baristas over the span of his career.
“I had lived here for two years, and I have never been to downtown Fitchburg before, and I was like ‘oh, there’s a lot of potential. “It would be difficult, but not unaffordable, to do it here in Fitchburg,” Bradley added.
“I grew up here [in Fitchburg],” said Jones. “So, I have known Main Street through many highs and lows. I have been here for almost 40 years but, [Bradley was] seeing it with fresh eyes.”
Bradley and Jones had been shopping around for a place to fit the bill for their new coffee shop and, when they heard that Chaibo, another coffee shop in Fitchburg was closing down after seven years, Jones and Bradley saw an opportunity.
“We were already going to open up a coffee shop up the street anyway and, we didn’t see Chaibo as competition, because their hours were different. We were actually meeting with someone to talk about another space, when we found out that Chaibo was going out of business. Chaibo wasn’t serving all the needs it should have. It didn’t open in the mornings. 70 percent of our business now, is coming from hours that the old store was closed,” said Bradley.
However, Jones and Bradley do not appear to be content with only opening a coffee shop. Coupled with the Theater Block renovation, and new, local art galleries being added, Jones and Bradley are looking to aid in bringing life back to downtown Fitchburg through art, community, and coffee.
“Chaibo had open mic night, we have open mic night, and we also have performances at least two to three times a week. So, it’s just kind of an amped-up version. There’s more because we’re more involved,” said Bradley.
Custom art of Bradley’s covers the bar front and some of the walls of the space, and Jones’ upcycled furniture add to the Bohemian-styled, earth-color tinged decor and lighting.
Jones comments that, “We’re really focused on creating that community aspect, and, also, a place for artists. I think the people that came here and loved it, are happy to see that it has new life and that the owners are here and the owners are loving this place. I think with Eirean being an artist…I think he’s really able to cultivate this space so other artists and other up-and-coming artists feel comfortable, and that is really important to us,” said Jones.