Java’s Cafe is a fundamental extension of the Rochester experience, opening its arms to comfort coffee, tea, and dessert lovers alike. For the typical UR student, the Java’s on Gibbs St. has become a place of solace during stressful testing times, and on more heartwarming occasions, a social hub.
Slowly approaching its thirties, Java’s reputation is embedded in its local and ethically sourced coffee beans. Before coming to Rochester to establish his legacy, Joe Palozzi, nicknamed Java Joe, created a coffee farm in Hawaii in 1978. With lots of time to dedicate to his craft, and without much money being made from his coffee (due to competition from capitalist-favored Maxwell’s Coffee) Joe also hid marijuana plants between his coffee trees as a secondary source of income. Once he was caught by the authorities, Joe was forced to leave the state of Hawaii. The connoisseur of coffee beans made his way to Rochester in the ’80s.
In 1992, Joe decided to start selling his coffee at the Public Market and opened up a store on Gibbs St. with the help of Michael Calabrese, whose father owned the building where our beloved Java’s is currently located. This location, beloved by many UR students and conveniently located next to the Eastman School of Music, is the first of many shops Java Joe opened. As a lover of the blues, Joe enthusiastically embellished this flagship store with as much artistic, poetic, and musical influence as he could, and stuck to a bohemian charm that he oh-so loved.
After this Gibbs location, Joe planted Java Joe’s where he was first starting out — in the Public Market; inside the Union Building, next to Boulder Coffee Co. About two years later, Java Joe’s moved to an adjacent building, established Java’s Bakeshop inside of it, and received a name change — Java’s at the Market Coffee Roasters. This building served as a place for him to work, where those who visited would often catch a glimpse of Joe skillfully roasting his coffee beans in the dancing flames and cultivating his drinks with care. Running his business in-person became a form of artistry, cherished by Java’s regulars.
However, this was not the same for those who attended Cafe Cibon (a coffee shop owned by Calabrese on Park Ave) or bought Java Joe’s brand of coffee in stores. In both of these cases, Joe did not actually roast the beans himself. In 1997 he licensed “Java Joe’s” to Calabrese, who then renamed the Gibbs cafe to what we know it as today — Java’s Cafe. Also after this exchange, Michael sold Cibon to a friend/co-worker and has been running the other Java’s operations in Rochester — Java Wally’s in RIT, and Java’s MCC.
Joe remained a constant in the Public Market location until he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and almost died from a heart attack. At this point in his life, he decided to travel to Italy to compete in all three Triple Crown races. Before this could happen, a different form of cancer developed. On March 11, 2017, Palozzi died of lung cancer at 68 years old. The influence he had poured into his business is well-known and highly regarded. It is known as “an anchor of the Rochester Public Market” and has won awards in the City’s newspaper for “Best Coffee Shop,” “Best Regular Cup of Coffee,” “Best Specialty Cup of Coffee,” and “Best Non-Bar Hangout.”
The next time you head down to Gibbs St. for your morning cup, keep in mind the extraordinary story of how that cup came to be, all thanks to Java Joe.