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Stop and Smell the Coffee: How Nirvana Soul Creates a Warm Environment for Customers

Photo courtesy of Nirvana Soul

Nirvana Soul, a coffee shop owned by sisters Jeronica Macey and Be’Anka Ashaolu, stands out with its vibrant atmosphere. Nirvana Soul is not just a coffee shop in the SoFA District in Downtown San Jose, it’s also a community-building hub. In our interview with Joy Hackett, the project manager of Nirvana Soul, we uncovered the inside scoop on Nirvana Soul’s After Dark events and the origins of the shop. 

Project Manager for Nirvana Soul

Joy Hackett is the project manager for Nirvana Soul. Her main daily responsibilities are administrative like taking care of the inbox and scheduling meetings. As a project manager, Hackett runs the events and the music performances at Nirvana Soul. She tells us that she felt like running the music program because she’s a musician herself. She also contacts smaller business vendors for events. The last part of her role is store functions such as working on rolling out a new drink. 

Picture of co-authors Sachi Tolani (right) and Wila Mae Navarro (left) with project manager Joy Hackett (middle) at Nirvana Soul. 

As a project manager, Hackett spends a lot of time working on-site at the cafe.

“I spend a lot of time here trying to manage it. So it’s a little better work-life balance, but it’s such a good environment and I love it here and I just want to make the business thrive,” said Hackett.

A New Layer of Community

One of Nirvana Soul’s core values is to create a community in San Jose. Nirvana Soul exhibits this core value through customer service and its music and art programs. Hackett says, “it goes all the way from the top of the business to what we do and who we work with all the way down to our baristas. So when we hire baristas, we want to make sure that in the smallest way we give back by making sure to ask our customers about their day…we want to make sure that we connect with everybody here.” 

The music program called After Dark is a “new layer of community” at Nirvana Soul. 

As a musician, Hackett is really connected with the San Jose music scene. She says that she tries to find people in the community who have never performed on stage. “Even though our stage can only fit like two people, I’m trying to give them a space to develop their craft because stage presence is a big thing for artists,” Hackett said. 

Nirvana Soul After Dark are the events they hold including open mics every week and concerts on first Fridays. Every Thursday night, there is something different: music open mic night, poetry night, comedy open mic night, and beat seat open mic. These events showcase small business vendors like Inhale Exhale Bodywork & Astrology and Dragon Lady Bakery.    

“If you see the Instagram page, Nirvana Soul After Dark, it’s kind of like a new layer of community because our main page is super bright,” Hackett said in response to how Thursday night events contribute to Nirvana Soul’s brand identity. “With the photo editing, the highlights are always really bright and supersaturated. But After Dark gives us a new kind of energy. So it will be the same people looking for good vibes and good energy, but a more subdued kind of way.”

Small Business Love

Not only does Nirvana Soul bring in local musicians, but also vendors and artists. The vendors get to sell their products or brand during events and customers get to support their local community. Artists also reach out to the store to hang their work and they change the artists every quarter. 

“We really try to put on black and brown and female artists,” Hackett said.

From The Soul

Coffee shops are no strangers to the city of San Jose. Each of them offers something different to the area whether it be the cafe’s ambiance, the roast they use, or the coffee merch they stock on its shelves. What Nirvana Soul brings to the table isn’t just delicious coffee and treats, but soul and community. 

“It’s the community. We set that as a core value. And we really emphasize that with every person who comes through here and wants to be a part of the formal Nirvana Soul family like the workers, but also the people who become family just by coming here. They come to the store and meet other people; something similar that I saw in other coffee shops, but here it’s very intentional,” Hackett said. 

A Labor Of Love

Social media is key to the success of advertising Nirvana Soul. Before the grand opening, the co-founders Jeronica Macey and Be’Anka Ashaolu documented their journey from start to finish on Instagram and the store’s blog. Their story isn’t just another highlight reel. The co-founders not only share their victories but also their losses. Instead of shying away from setbacks, they give us the whole picture. 

On November 24, 2021, Nirvana Soul, unfortunately, had a break-in at their store. They posted on Instagram that morning alerting their customers that they would have to open later than usual that day. Customers came back with support by posting on their social channels to show them a little extra love. 

“One essential thing I learned from Be’Anka is to post every day, like consistently, because it kind of falls in line with our idea of community. If you have a friend you’re there for them every day, or at least on a consistent basis. On Instagram, you can always know that when you wake up there’s going to be Nirvana Soul posts.”

Hackett spends a lot of time working one-on-one with Macey and Ashaolu. “It’s been really great. It’s so crazy how much I’ve learned in this amount of time. It was a lot of learning at first because the project manager is kind of a big role which is a good thing because I get to find where I really fit,” Hackett said.

Creating New Opportunities

Macey and Ashaolu not only oversee Hackett’s day-to-day tasks but also foster her growth as a business professional and challenge her to be the best she can be. Hackett joined the team about nine months ago and has learned so much on the job. 

“It’s been really great to learn that from them. It’s wild because you know I’ve worked at different places, but they really care about me. They’ll call me out when I’m slacking or when I’m kind of making excuses. But then they’ll come back with love; Be’Anka will give me books to improve some of my skills and Jeronica will just be there to hear out my dreams and goals,” Hackett said. 

Riding The Third Wave 

In Eater SF, a San Francisco food and dining guide, Nirvana Soul got an honorable mention for being a part of the “third-wave of coffee” along with other South Bay coffee shops.

The definition of third-wave coffee, which was originally coined by Bay Area native Trish Rothgeb, is​​ “a label for the products of a coffee industry made up of cafes and other coffee businesses opened between about 2000 and today that share a linked, if not identical, mission statement: to deliver high-quality cups of coffee to customers”, according to Michael Paul Light in an Oct. 2019 Los Angeles Times article. 

“We are a specialty coffee shop and most people know us for our colorful flavors. We craft our actual coffee beans and we started roasting a month ago. We have a roaster named Alex who really makes sure to take into account the notes that they want in the coffee,” said Hackett.

Sweet Surprise

It was a pleasure to speak with Joy Hackett and learn more about how Nirvana Soul creates a warm environment for customers. “It’s only been a year, and they’re already working on the next store… they’re trying to do a location in Cupertino,” said Hackett.

Tag us in your Nirvana Soul Coffee and After Dark photos @HerCampusSJSU!   

My name is Sachi and I'm a Marketing Major at SJSU and I love photography, going on new adventures, and doing anything creative!
Hello! My name is Wila Mae. I'm a sophomore studying Advertising at San Jose State University. I love reading literary fiction and listening to music. Check me out on Instagram @wilamae.navarro
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