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Jazzman’s jewel shines at Campus Square

Nestled between The Cup and Pastaficio’s in Lehigh’s Campus Square, Jazzman’s coffee shop sparkles like a jewel—both in the heart of Lehigh’s campus and well beyond.

Jazzman’s has established itself as a premiere gathering spot for students, staff, and faculty as well as the surrounding Bethlehem community. That comes to no surprise considering both its prime location in the center of a bustling new area for the community and its welcoming atmosphere. Jazzman’s offers music-inspired artwork, jazz tunes pumping through a Bose sound system, chic coffee drinks and fresh foods. Now the Jazzman’s formula for success has been extended to more than 100 other Jazzman’s stores spread across 27 different states and two stores in the United Kingdom.

With its music-inspired artwork, jazz tunes pumping through a Bose sound system, chic coffee drinks and fresh foods, Jazzman’s is a favorite spot at Lehigh. And with more than 100 other Jazzman’s stores spread across 27 different states—and now, two stores in the U.K.—its success has reached far beyond the campus borders.

In a recent article in Nation’s Restaurant News, Jazzman’s was touted as “Sodexho’s (formerly, the Wood Company) hottest commodity,” with the Campus Square location named “the jewel in Jazzman’s crown, “ when it was named a Hot Concepts! winner.

The Wood Company created Jazzman’s five years ago as a specialty coffee shop and bakery for colleges, hospitals, and business campuses. It’s offered in three formats—a cart, kiosk or a full-scale café that can sell breakfast sandwiches, hot and cold luncheon sandwiches and signature salads. The Campus Square Jazzman’s is one of only two free-standing Jazzman’s cafes in the country.

And the 2,400-square foot Jazzman’s on Morton Street has become one of the first “hot spots” in the Lehigh Valley, so students, faculty, staff, and community members can sit and surf the Internet with their laptops for free or use the one provided in the cafe.

Jazzman’s has not only blended jazz music with an eclectic beverage and food menu, it has provided yet another opportunity for Lehigh to play a key role in the revitalization of South Bethlehem.

The decision to put Jazzman’s at Campus Square was made as a result of student surveys and input from Gregory Farrington, Lehigh president. “We asked students what they wanted in that space and it meshed with what President Farrington wanted, so we went with it,” says Barry Gaal, associate vice president of business services. “It’s been a perfect fit. The look and feel of the space is terrific—we’re very pleased.”

Stimulating the campus and the community

Right now, about 80 percent of Jazzman’s customers come from the university and 20 percent come from the community. “Looking at the student base and the community, in the next five years, this area is really going to be thriving,” says Kimmarie Taylor, manager of Jazzman’s in Campus Square. “I’d like to see more people come in from the community, including the north side of Bethlehem.”

To help bring in Bethlehem residents, Taylor has organized a number of community events at Jazzman’s. For one, she set up a booth at the “Tastes of Bethlehem” event a few months ago, serving coffee and baked goods to give Bethlehem eaters a taste of what Jazzman’s has to offer.

She’s also holding a reception following the Bethlehem Fine Arts Committee’s Paint Out on Oct. 2, which will bring in artists from all over the nation. “Artists will be invited to go into the portion of Bethlehem Steel that’s currently blocked off and sit there and paint or take pictures,” Taylor says. “So I offered to have a reception afterward from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for all the artists. The ensemble that plays here on Fridays will play for free, I’ll put some food out, and Pastaficio’s and the bookstore will run some specials that day.”

Taylor would also like to do a local artist show in Campus Square, where Lehigh Valley artists can display their work. “It would pull the community together and showcase all the talent we have here,” she says.

She’s also planning to do a community fundraiser with the Lehigh Police Officers in the near future. “A lot of people have commented that it’s nice to see the officers at Jazzman’s—their presence here is a real positive. So I’d like to do a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club where people can come down, meet the officers and grab some coffee.”

In addition to fine coffee, the Jazzman’s at Campus Square offers baked goods, breakfast sandwiches, freshly made salads and sandwiches and wraps, and pre-made “grab and go” items for patrons who don’t have time to wait for something to be freshly made.

Brewing fresh ideas

To compete with your average urban coffee shop, Jazzman’s is always looking to be innovative and creative. They recently rearranged the store to better suit the flow of traffic. “We’re always looking for input from our customers,” says Bob Wood, executive vice president of client development for Sodexho. “We want to know what we’re doing well, and we’re open to suggestions on what we can do better.”

Taylor says one way she gets feedback from customers is by striking up conversations with them. “There’s one student who comes in here almost every day and we’ve developed a friendship,” she says. “He’s always offering suggestions—it’s a great way to get new perspectives.”

One change they’re seriously considering at the Campus Square Jazzman’s is a move to china and just using paper cups for takeout. “There are some customers who find a certain art and comfort in their latte when it’s served in china, as opposed to those who love those to-go cups. Either way, we work to meet our customers’ needs,” Taylor says. She’d also like to bring in more seating, so students and professors have more room to work.

One thing you can count on: Jazzman’s will continue to stay fresh and current. Having recently won the HOT CONCEPTS! award from Nation's Restaurant News and Tyson Foods, Jazzman's is now in the same league as previous award winners such as Cosi Sandwich Bar and The Cheesecake Factory. It is an indication that Jazzman's is now recognized as a fully conceived street brand with great growth potential and that the shop is now being judged by restaurant standards rather than by campus dining standards alone.

For now, Jazzman’s continues to be increasingly used as a hangout for Lehigh students, professors and community members. Wood says: “People are pleasantly surprised when they come to Jazzman’s—the coffee and food are great, and it’s much more enticing than they would expect.”

--Elizabeth Shimer

Posted on Wednesday, September 22, 2004

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