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Jumpin J's Java & General Store 

Church Hill, 2306 Jefferson Avenue

Jazz singer Carol Covell, who performs in the shop on alternating Sundays, credits the setting and the fuel. "Coffee is the center point of strong discussion or light talk, and [unlike conversations in a bar] it will not change you, intoxicate you. Here, there are no strangers. This has brought the neighborhood closer together."

Boarded-up buildings nearby are being renovated into restaurants, businesses and homes at a pace that surprises even real estate agents. Is there a connection? "We started [coming to Jumpin J's] when we were scoping out this neighborhood and deciding whether we wanted to move here," says Barbara Ingber, who settled in nearby Union Hill with her husband and son after those regular visits. "Having a neighborhood café was important to us because we're walkers, and this one has a wonderful personality. There's a lot of diversity — young, old, everything. And that's what makes it fun."

Depew credits her staff for the friendly vibe that customers seek out and says business is strong enough that she now plans to expand.

"It's so personal on both sides of the counter," she says. "It's real, not contrived. People can be themselves here, and that's what unifies a community." — Deveron Timberlake



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