Family and friends of co-founders John Imig and Kristi Persinger mingled during January Coffee’s grand opening celebration in early May. Spilling down the store’s interior balcony and onto the lower level’s blue-and-white, geometric tiled floor, the excited crowd chatted over beer and lattes, surrounded by plants, colorful wall murals and camaraderie.
The scene radiated the communal spirit behind the new undertaking from the married team. Their belief is simple: Coffee should be about the people who craft it, and the people who drink it. After practicing that people-centered philosophy during their combined decades behind the bar tops of specialty coffee shops on the west coast, Imig and Persinger took everything they learned and put it into practice at January Coffee in the Market Square Shopping Center at 1886 30th St.
While dozens of coffee shops line Pearl Street and beyond, the couple says it isn’t the sheer number of cafes that makes a community. For Imig and Persinger, that comes through creating an environment that helps customers feel more connected to what’s in their cup, and to each other.
“When we moved to Boulder, we knew we wanted to open a shop,” Persinger says of their relocation from Los Angeles in 2019. “We pretty quickly recognized we didn’t feel like there was a lot of coffee community here.”
The two quickly got to work sketching out a vision for a new space that would encourage gatherings with an open floor plan and upstairs furniture that’s more reminiscent of a living room than a business. Boulder coffee shops tend to cultivate an atmosphere where college students and those who work from “home” crank out their tasks, rather than get to know those around them.
“We want this to be more of a communal space and less of ‘I’m going to January Coffee to hang out on my laptop for four hours,’” Persinger says.
For Imig, that mission for the space reflects the underpinning philosophy that drove the pair to open January Coffee in the first place: a focus on connection and belonging, cutting through the pretense that can sometimes pervade high-end coffee bars.
“We can talk extraction with the best of them, but we opened the shop because we love coffee culture and the community around a shop,” Imig says.
Sharing a vision
Imig and Persinger met at a Specialty Coffee Association convention in Seattle in 2017, which seems like kismet for a couple with the shared dream of opening their own coffee shop. They both fell in love with the Los Angeles coffee scene, which Imig joined in 2003 and Persinger followed a decade later. They moved to Imig’s hometown of Boulder in 2019, where the couple worked together at local shop Ozo Coffee Company, before opening what would eventually become January Coffee, named after the month they celebrate their anniversary.
When the couple first started dating, they compared Pinterest inspiration boards and found they also shared the same aesthetic vision for a future coffee shop.
“The more we talked about it, the more we realized we aligned on everything in the cafe,” Imig says. “From the decor and the coffee, to the bar flow and staff experience.”
When it comes to executing that grand vision, Imig and Persinger place a high emphasis on staff education. January Coffee’s training program teaches baristas the background of the industry and on-the-floor know-how. From an intro-to-coffee class covering processing and sourcing to staff tastings, the couple crafts a knowledgeable staff behind the counter.
“We’re investing a lot of our time and resources into the people who work here,” Persinger says.
The cafe offers an Australian-style food program, which centers around pairing food with coffee or tea in a leisurely environment. Patrons can cozy up for conversation with classic espresso drinks and avocado toast, as well as an extensive tea list and unique options like a musubi spam-wich.
January Coffee sources its beans from award-winning, Arkansas-based Onyx Coffee Lab, along with two other rotating roasters. For its rotators, Persinger and Imig call on the network they’ve built over the years: Oakland-based Mother Tongue and Kilogram Tea of Chicago, whose owners Imig and Persinger know from working with them at the highly regarded Intelligentsia Coffee in Los Angeles.
The cafe’s beverage program may represent the top of the line for high-end coffee shops with a heavy focus on quality sourcing, but Persinger, who has long championed diversity in the male-dominated industry, says she wants their space to transcend the culture often associated with that competitive and sometimes impenetrable world.
“We tried to make a concerted effort to branch out from latte art throwdowns,” Persinger says, referring to the artful milk-pouring competitions that have become a staple of the scene over the last two decades. “There’s a little bit of a barista bro culture we weren’t as crazy about.”
And though several skilled baristas from local shops like Boxcar Coffee Roasters competed in the latte art-off at January Coffee’s grand opening party, so did someone with no barista background. He lost, but in keeping with the welcoming mission of owners Imig and Persinger, the gathering of everyday coffee lovers loudly cheered for him regardless.