Jirani Coffeehouse: Where the Neighborhood Brews

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By Emma Young

Jirani Coffeehouse on West Street in the Manassas Historic District has a one-word mission statement: “Love,” according to Ken Moorman, Jirani’s founder and proprietor along with his wife Detra. We live in a day where coffee bean love is strong, but for the Moormans, their passion and calling is love of community, love of neighbor, love of the arts, love of culture and the love of people coming together.

“We started the coffeehouse for the sole purpose of bringing the community together. The arts and coffee was the carrot,” said Ken Moorman. “We wanted a neighborhood hub, a place for excellent coffee and conversation, and a center for arts and culture. Our vision for Jirani, which is Swahili for neighbor or neighborhood, is that it becomes your ‘third space,’ that welcoming space that you love to frequent besides home and work.”

“You can tell it was designed for the community,” said Emily Guerrero, who works nearby at the marketing firm Imagine. “It’s got a real coziness and welcoming vibe. It’s a great place to catch up with friends or have a meeting. Sometimes I’ll just go there by myself to take a little break from my day.”

Even those who live further afield have noticed. “Since I have moved to Virginia from the Pacific Northwest, I’ve been on the search for a coffee shop that not only has great coffee but a great atmosphere too. Jirani is just that and more. My family and I have enjoyed the open mic nights they host, and my kids loved the children’s events over the summer. We love it,” said Amber Budzynski, who lives in Montclair, about a 25-minute drive from Jirani.

“We like to do a children’s hour twice a week in the summer, where moms can get some coffee, meet a friend and socialize, and the kids are close by having fun,” Detra Moorman said.

“The Moormans have created a gathering place for neighbors, in our case neighbors of the literary arts,” explained Belinda Miller, founder of Prince William County Writers and author of the Phillip’s Quest and Ragwort Chronicles series. “From author signings to poetry readings, Jirani has opened its doors to our rich community of writers.”

“We want to use all of the arts and coffee to bring the community together,” said Ken Moorman. “It is one thing to see art or hear it and another thing to sit in it. Jirani is sitting in art.” What type of art? In addition to those described by Miller, “live music is huge for us,” said Detra Moorman. “We also have art exhibits. We are featuring African-American artists running for three months until May.”

What about the coffee? “I didn’t want to have the same coffee as anybody else,” said Ken Moorman. “I found One Village coffee in Philadelphia. It’s a very delicious coffee. In the first month, we sold over 6,000 cups.”

“The coffee tastes vibrant and rich,” said Budzynski. “You actually taste the coffee, not all the syrups and sugars [like at other places].”

“It is handcrafted,” noted Ken Moorman. “It is like an artist painting a picture. You can taste the difference in the coffee.”

“As far as coffee, our number-one signature drink is Jirani Junction with vanilla and honey. People love it,” he continued. “I think because on the espresso side, you can taste the flavor in the coffee, and a little honey is sweet, but not as strong as they thought.”

The baked goods are a hit too. The Moormans made a conscious decision to celebrate and include other businesses, such as Sweet Pearlz Cheesecakes, Works of Wonder (“WOW”) Bakery and Pie + Petals at Jirani. All operate and serve out of the coffeehouse. “Nothing is frozen. All baked goods are made fresh and put in the case immediately,” said Ken Moorman. “The cheesecakes, the carrot cake and the express bagels are a huge hit.”

“We were blown away by the first month—the number of sales, the number of people. We thought we’d have a slow progression, but it just boomed. We were trying to keep up with demand and expectations. It has been successful,” he said.

What does the future hold? “Jirani means neighborhood, so we listen to the neighborhood, to the customer. Our number-one request was, ‘Can we have wine?’” said Ken Moorman. So, in late 2016, Jirani started selling wine.

“The next request was people wanted to host receptions, parties and weddings at Jirani,” he said. “Now we’re opening the venue up,” explained Detra Moorman. “It is already so well decorated. You can have an intimate wedding inside, and wedding cakes can be from Jirani, along with music and entertainment,” she noted. Total capacity is 187.

“We have gotten so many requests. People want a Jirani in their neighborhood,” said Ken Moorman. “We are definitely going to open another Jirani.” And that’s just a little more love to go around.

Emma Young (eyoung@princewilliamliving.com) is a freelance writer living in Montclair. 

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