By Beth Friedman-Romell
Friends chatting animatedly. Students poring over texts. A man typing queries on his laptop. Another stretched out by the fire in a comfy chair, engrossed in a book.
Welcome to Gimme Java, the cozy cafe on the southeast corner of Van Aken Boulevard and Lee Road, described by regular Jody Weathers as “Shaker’s version of Cheers, only with coffee instead of alcohol.”
That’s just what proprietor Albert Plummer had in mind when he opened the business in October of 2013 with his sister, Vicki White, and fiancée, Shaker native Joann Dipasquale. “Some folks been coming since Day 1. Every day. Money or not, here they come!” Plummer laughs.
Plummer’s boisterous laugh and exuberant personality set Gimme Java apart from the more corporate coffeehouses he disdains. But the New Jersey native’s first career was quintessentially corporate – he was a Wall Street broker for 16 years, for the now-defunct firm Bear Stearns.
Plummer recalls that after the financial crash of 2008, “It was time for a change. I came to Ohio at the insistence of my sister. I was skeptical at first. But you know, I fell in love with the community.”
After a few years working in sales, Plummer felt ready to branch out on his own. He had once owned a bakery in West Orange, New Jersey and was searching for the right project to take on here. Then he met Joann Dipasquale, who had previously run her own nail salon in Bainbridge.
The two became partners in life and work as they implemented their vision. They found a space in the heart of Shaker, and transformed it by installing wood floors, increasing the amount of natural light, and selecting warm, inviting furniture and lighting.
Gimme Java soon began attracting the diverse clientele Plummer imagined, but a major setback occurred about six months after the shop opened, when a drunk driver crashed his jeep through a window during business hours. Miraculously, nobody was seriously hurt.
“I met the driver at the hearing,” Plummer says. “He was distraught at the time of the accident because his mom had just died. He drank too much. I told him I was glad nobody was hurt.” Then Plummer hugged him, to the astonishment of Shaker Heights Municipal Court Judge K.J. Montgomery.
Plummer’s huge heart makes customers feel as if they are in their own living room. He jokes, starts conversations, breaks into song [he had a brief musical career], and playfully chases little kids around the shop. Joann, who also has previous restaurant experience, says she is more comfortable running the “behind-the-scenes” aspects of the business.
Gimme Java is also a UPS access point for package pickup. Plummer explains that providing this service cuts down on theft of packages and generates business. But the social aspect of the shop is what matters most. “The coffee’s good; the conversation’s better,” he insists.
I can vouch personally for both, after sharing an afternoon of laughter and a great cup of coffee with the folks at Gimme Java. On my way out, I ended up in a long and thoughtful discussion about gun control with 2013 SHHS grad Ifeolu Claytor, now a senior at Miami University, who had dropped in to work on an online class. There’s something about the place that makes you want to stay and chat.