Mercer alumnus startup to replace Jittery Joe’s as Mercer Village’s cultural hub

A cup of coffee from Jittery Joe's. Photo provided by Jittery Joe's.

A cup of coffee from Jittery Joe’s. Photo provided by Jittery Joe’s.

Jittery Joe’s in Mercer Village announced it would be closing its doors July 29. The coffee shop will reopen in at the end of August as Z Beans Coffee, under the management of recent Mercer graduate Shane Buerster.

“The employees with Jittery Joe’s have all been offered jobs with Z Beans,” Buerster said. “However, we will be making renovations to the shop, which includes furniture from Mercer’s own Andrew Eck and his company, Georgia Artisan.”

The previous owner, Howard Collins, was ready to sell to someone new.

“I’m not a spring chicken anymore,” Collins said in an interview with the Telegraph. “I’m over 75, so I just decided to turn it over to some younger Mercerians.”

Z Beans started with a Mercer on Mission trip to Ecuador the summer of 2016. There, Buerster’s class helped determine whether growing coffee beans would be a viable alternative to gold mining in El Oro.

After returning home, Buerster kept in contact with their tour guide.   

“(He) suggested I start a coffee business and begin importing Ecuadorian coffee,” Buerster wrote on the Z Beans Coffee website. “Through what I learned while on Mercer on Mission: Ecuador, I have been able to work with… the local coffee farmers to create a way to economically support the families of these impoverished Ecuadorian people.”

Z Beans Coffee will also be introducing Nitro Coffee, a drink patented by another Mercer alumnus startup, Phoenix Coffee Roasters. Buerster plans to keep the store open later, closing at 9 p.m. instead of  6 p.m.

Buerster has the Mercer Innovation Center (MIC) to thank for their guidance and connections.

“When I first met Shane, he was one of the competitors at one of our student pitch competitions, the Next Big Idea competition. (He) did not win that competition, but went on and still continued to do work on his supply chain,” MIC Director Stephanie Howard said. “In a year, he was able to get his company to the point where outside investors were wanting to invest in Z Beans.”

Workers take down the Jittery Joe’s sign on Aug 15. Photo by Marianna Bacallao

Along with the aid of Mercer connections, Buerster was financially backed by Central Piedmont Investment Group, an investment group of local entrepreneurs who pool their money to invest in local startups.

“It was just making connections, I mean Mercer University owns that property,” Howard said. “It was Shane that made contact with the previous owner of the coffeeshop…it just so happens that they were transitioning out of that business and Shane was ready.”

Before acquiring Jittery Joe’s, Z Beans Coffee was sold exclusively online. Buerster worked on the supply chain during his junior year of college and launched the website September of 2017.   

Although it’s soon to be replaced by another coffee shop, the news of Jittery Joe’s closing riled up the Mercer community. Their Facebook announcement had over 160 comments and 100 shares within days of its publication.

“My favorite studying spot on Mercer’s campus,” Elizabeth Riggins wrote. “So many fond memories of writing there with a chai latte and a cinnamon roll.”

It wasn’t just current Mercer students reaching out. The decade Jittery Joe’s spent in Mercer Village meant something to a lot of alumni.  

“This was my favorite job I have ever had. I met so many amazing people and always had a good day after working and chatting with everyone. I’m so sad y’all are closing, I always loved coming back to Macon and stopping by to see Jit Joes,” Caleb Morton wrote.

Updated Aug. 15.  A previous version of this article did not include the details of Buerster’s investors.