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Jitters coffee shop energizes fine arts

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DCN Reporter

While large corporations donate millions of dollars to national charities, one Duluth coffee shop contributes to the community in a different way. Jitters coffee shop in downtown Duluth chooses to help local artists.

Each month the owner of Jitters, Gary Houdek, dedicates an entire wall in his coffee shop to display the work of a local artist—not only to display great artwork for his customers, but also to sell the artist’s work. Houdek also donates a portion of his profits to help fine arts programs in Duluth.

Generating a relationship with the community is a high priority at Jitters. The customers are usually greeted by name, which is amazing considering the traffic of people that invade the small shop every day. Jitters employees have created a friendly and knowledgeable environment in their shop that enhances their relationship with the community.

“The young worker really knew his beans,? said Don Saari, a recent customer in shop.

“My wife and I came back here, because he really impressed me with how much he knew,? Saari added.

Jitters grinds its own fresh coffee beans daily. Houdek likes to use fresh ingredients in other items, too, such as fruit smoothies and sandwiches.

Places like Jitters face competition from corporations such as Starbucks, one of which has taken residence only a couple of blocks from Houdek’s shop.

“We’re not worried about Starbucks,? Houdek said. Since Starbucks moved in, Jitters has maintained its customers and also gained many new ones.

According to the Starbucks Web site, the Starbucks Corporation gave $36.1 million to charities and nonprofit groups in 2006, but when asked about involvement in the Duluth community, their management was difficult to contact.

The typical customer who walks into Starbucks for a cup of coffee is dressed in business attire. Jitters employee Casey Uland paused before responding on who the typical Jitters customer is.

“Actually, we get a wide variety of people who come here. Everyone from bums to business workers,? said Uland.

“I wouldn’t mind going to Starbucks if their coffee actually tasted halfway decent,? Uland added.

“Gary is really good about who he hires, because they all do an excellent job,? said Eric Horn, a frequent customer who works nearby.

“I enjoy just going in there and talking with the workers,? Horn mentions.

The term “community contribution? has a different meaning to the Jitters coffee shop. They may not have millions of dollars in corporate revenues, but they find ways to make a difference. Whether it’s helping struggling artists, making an excellent café mocha or simply delivering a friendly morning greeting, the shop has attracted regular customers in the downtown area. Their relationship with the community and their commitment to quality has earned Jitters the “Best Coffee Shop? award in Duluth several years now, according to Houdek.

For November, Jitters will display Mike Nordin's photography.

The coffee shop's reputation for quality coffee and community involvement has cemented its business in the Duluth area for generations.

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ABOVE: Mike Nordin's photography is displayed during November 2007 on a wall inside Duluth's Jitters coffee shop.


Great shop!! I have been there this summer and liked it very much.