by Megan Combs
Jason LittleBear is tired. Like one-day-off-per-month-for-the-last-eight-months tired. But to him, it’s worth it. And it’s starting to pay off.
Jason is the owner of Copley Coffee & Games, Copley’s first coffee shop in recent years. The shop, located on Copley Circle, will celebrate its grand opening on Friday.
“I have always wanted to come to the circle to window shop, eat and see people in the community,” Jason says. “I’ve heard a lot about what Copley Circle used to be like and it dawned on me that we have to bridge that gap again — the gap between each other, youth and police, and older and younger people.”
He’s doing everything he can to make sure there’s something positive happening in a time when everything seems so negative, he says.
“Every Saturday I play board games with my son and his friends,” Jason explains. “Last March they were all mopey because of all the negativity in the world — school shootings, politics. So I wanted to open a games shop where people could come and have fun. But we couldn’t make it on just games alone, so we added coffee.”
Matt Springer is the director of community and economic development for Copley Township. He and other township officials are ready to see the circle be vibrant once again.
“People are always saying they’re not satisfied with the status quo of the circle for many reasons, whether it’s infrastructure, businesses or lack thereof,” Matt says. “We hear about what it used to be like, and it’s clearly not that anymore.”
Copley Circle Better Block in September 2016 sparked the idea for Copley Coffee & Games, Jason says. In a survey conducted during that event, several people said they wanted to see a coffee shop. People surveyed also mentioned wanting a bakery, boutiques, restaurants, general walkability and bike lanes. Township Trustee Helen Humphrys says the circle used to be home to a neighborhood bar, pharmacy, secondhand bookstore, hair salon, bank and more.
It took eight months for Jason to get CC&G up and running, and the shop celebrated a soft opening on Nov 18. Along the way, Jason received tons of support from the community on Facebook and also through monetary, book and board game donations.
Right now, Jason’s staff, which includes a few high school students, is all volunteer.
“You have to sacrifice a lot to gain,” he says. “But I love when it fills up after school and the kids are doing their homework. The response has been amazing.”
Jason co-owns Jacobs Heritage Farm on Jacoby Road with his wife Jennifer. He plans to use a lot of their harvest in future cafe-style dishes, and one of his farm employees already serves as the shop’s baker. Jason sells pastries, cookies, honey and more in the shop’s “farmstand.”
When the idea of opening a coffee shop first bloomed in Jason’s mind, he had his heart set on the former Bon Appetito Pizzeria restaurant on the circle, saying he loved the exterior that channels an Old World Italian facade. The inside is packed with donated books and board games. There’s a little nook for children, a water feature, and a corner for future acoustic performances.
“I love Copley because it’s small, but feels big,” Jason says. “I hope that someone opens a restaurant next. I want to see family-run businesses. I hope we have a ripple effect.”
The township is working with Jason and any future business owners by working with Summit County to extend water and sewer services to the circle, says Trustee Helen Humphrys.
“It’s time to wake up the circle and bring in more venues like that,” Helen says. “It’s about time.”
In addition, the township has purchased some properties near the circle to make them available for rent to future business owners, Matt says.
“People want the experience like you get at Falls Riverfront or Medina Square,” Matt says. “Jason has a community mindset that he’s putting into this and I get encouraged when I see business owners who want to work with us (township) and vice versa.”
Megan Combs, a mother of two small children, is more than excited for a place nearby that can nurture her caffeine needs.