VALLEY BROOK — The owner of a coffee shop in Valley Brook that unapologetically counts sex offenders, felons and others living on society's fringes as valued customers was given a three-month extension on her business license during a heated town trustee meeting Tuesday evening.
In recent months, residents have become upset about the rising number of homeless men roaming the working-class town, and many of them blame Joe's Addiction for the increased traffic.
Many residents believe the customer base at Joe's Addiction is responsible for increased property thefts and other criminal behavior in Valley Brook.
Coffee shop owner Jamie Zumwalt, who has been publicly defending her business over the past two months, said she doesn't discriminate against anybody who comes into Joe's Addiction, 1806B SE 59.
In addition to coffee, the shop offers its customers ministry-type services, including four weekly group meetings for addicts and alcoholics. Zumwalt and her husband also own a “free store” next to the coffee shop, which gives things away.
Zumwalt, who appeared emotional after the meeting, said she is “extremely happy” with the three-month extension.
“We've been asking for some kind of meeting, some kind of dialogue about what we can do to work with them,” she said of the town's Board of Trustees. “Up until tonight, we had not been able to get that.”
Near the close of the meeting, town Trustee Lewis Neiman suggested that Zumwalt's business license be extended three months while town leaders, residents and Zumwalt meet and discuss the future of Joe's Addiction.
Trustees voted unanimously to extend the business license.
“I'd like to see you run your business through the parameters of your business license,” Nieman said.
For Zumwalt, the trustees' decision and Nieman's comments Tuesday night are encouraging.
“In the next three months, we'll sit down together and try to work this out,” she said. “What was indicated tonight is that we'll be able to stay, long-term, as a business, so I feel good about that.”
Some residents voice strong concerns
Resident Bobby Burgess started a petition to get the coffee shop kicked out of Valley Brook in April after he became concerned about the growing number of homeless people wandering the small town.
Many residents believe sex offenders are among those wandering their neighborhoods because of the proximity of Hand Up Ministries, which allows them to live there when they are newly released from prison.
Burgess, who attended Tuesday's meeting with his wife, wasn't pleased with the decision made by the town trustees.
“A bunch of lies,” Burgess said of the things said by Zumwalt and her supporters. “I can't believe they're letting them stay.”
Collie Hutto, owner of Fancy's strip club in Valley Brook, said she wants Joe's Addiction gone. She said the shop's customers loiter outside the business and harass “the girls when they're coming into work.”
“We don't need that here,” said Hutto, who goes by the name “Miss C.”
Others accused customers of Joe's Addiction of stealing from their property and approaching their children.
Some give support
Yet some residents, many of whom were initially in favor of pulling the coffee shop's business license, spoke in support of Joe's Addiction.
One woman, who claimed to have several children who roam the streets of Valley Brook, said she doesn't believe the coffee shop is the source of the town's problems.
The woman said she once wanted town trustees to terminate Zumwalt's business license. Then, she said, the May 31 storms swept through Valley Brook and damaged her home. The woman said nobody helped her or her family “even though we have a tree hanging out of our roof.”
“It's not Joe's Addiction ... we need people willing to go out and help people,” she said. “I did a complete 180 on this — I've been on both sides of the fence.”
We've been asking for some kind of meeting, some kind of dialogue about what we can do to work with them. Up until tonight, we had not been able to get that.”
Coffee shop owner Jamie Zumwalt,