Amy Brehm: Owner, Java Joe's CoffeeHouse
Thursday, August 04, 2011 3:39 PM
Amy Brehm, Photo by Duane Tinkey
Q & A
Biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
My biggest risk was branching away from being a stay-at-home mom, jumping right back in to the work force.
What frustrates you?
If I get one person saying something negative, that really eats at me. I wish I could rewind the clock and make it right. Putting myself in their shoes, I wish they didn’t have to go through that.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
You’ve got to love what you do, take the risk, be who you are. Don’t be afraid. If it is meant to be, it will work out. But you have really got to like what you are doing.
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Amy Brehm’s entrepreneurial aspirations began long before she purchased a popular coffeehouse in the Court Avenue Entertainment District.
Growing up in Dubuque, Brehm watched as her father operated a successful typesetting company, where she went to work in the sixth grade. It was during those formative years that she began to develop the work ethic that led her to open three businesses in Greater Des Moines.
“He’s really raised me with the foundation of owning a business,” Brehm said of her dad. “I’ve seen it; I’ve lived it. I just had that drive, the same as he did.”
In December 2007, Brehm and her husband, Tim, acquired Java Joe’s CoffeeHouse, a Fourth Street business that has served downtown residents, workers and visitors since 1992. “It has a great, strong brand and we knew that,” Brehm said of her attraction to Java Joe’s. “We just love the atmosphere; we loved it from the minute we walked in. I’m a people person; I love to be around people. Just knowing this is a great environment for that, I fell right into it.”
Tying her people skills to her role as a business owner, Brehm said connecting with customers is one of the most satisfying parts of the job. “Some people come in and they just want to vent,” she said. “Sometimes we feel like we are in therapy at the counter. They just want you to listen. They’re not only coming for good coffee; they are coming for the experience.”
Unsatisfied with the hustle and bustle that comes with operating one retail outlet, Brehm the following year opened Fourth Street Theatre, a performing arts space that features live music and other events adjacent to the restaurant. The coffee merchant may soon need to consume more of her product to keep up with the daily routine she has become accustomed to. In August, the Brehms plan to start an Allstate Insurance agency on Merle Hay Road.
“I like to be busy,” Brehm said. “I’m at my best when I am busy. I’ve always been that way.”
Beyond staying busy with roasting beans, talking with customers and managing employees as she books bands and organizes events, the working wife and mother said she wants to instill in her four children a foundation that will help them follow their dreams.
“I was a stay-at-home mom for 12 years, and my husband traveled a lot,” Brehm said. “I was raised by an entrepreneur, my father, and always had that inkling inside me to do something when the kids got a little older. So when the caboose went off to kindergarten, I just dove right back in the work force.”
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