As news of its demise spread across Facebook late Sunday night, comments of dismay and shock filled the shop’s fan page, nearly faster than I could keep up with reading them.
For most of us, the fact that our beloved Shelby’s Coffee Shoppe would close in three days was truly shocking news.
In a town that values individuality in its storefronts, Shelby’s has been an anchor in the Neptune and Atlantic Beaches business communities for more than a decade. It is the spot for hanging out for people of all ages – day or evening.
Coffees, incredible sandwiches named for various local streets and landmarks, live music some nights, local artists displaying on their walls – everyone loves Shelby’s. When we first arrived in Jacksonville ten years ago and rented an oceanfront condo while we shopped for a permanent home here, I parked myself at Shelby’s (the old location, for those of you who remember it) one Sunday afternoon in March, and decided, then and there, that it was Atlantic Beach, and only Atlantic Beach for me. The husband, fond of golfing, and simply euphoric about having relocated to a temperate climate, would have been content in a house on the golf course in a gated community, just a few miles away from the beach. For him, that was an idyllic lifestyle. (And actually, it is. It’s just personal preference at play here.) ‘What’s the difference?’ he told me, ‘We’d be living on a golf course, with the beach is just minutes away’.
Well, I knew the difference. And I was sitting right in front of it. Where, in a gated community, can you ride your bike to? In a world of ever-increasing subdivisions and closed communities that lack an actual town, I was completely drawn in by these coastal neighborhoods. To sit and have coffee on the sidewalk cafe in March, and then ride my bike home again? Well, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven, having somehow landed here. It was at Shelby’s Coffee Shoppe that afternoon, when I made up my mind: we would live right here in Atlantic Beach (and drive to the golf course, not the other way around) In fact, I went inside and started my own Shelby’s ‘frequent coffee purchase’ card and placed it in the box, next to the register. Then I bought an ‘Atlantic Beach’ refrigerator magnet. It was as if I was planting my stake in the land; putting down my roots. I left Shelby’s, rode my bike back to our condo, and slapped that magnet onto our rented refrigerator and silently declared myself an Atlantic Beach resident.
It was Shelby’s and the neighboring shops and restaurants, just steps from the beach, that completely won me over. It was having a destination, a real town to go to, not merely a ‘clubhouse’ in a subdivision, that mattered to me when it came to where we should buy a home and make our lives. And it’s never disappointed.
So on Sunday night when the news of Shelby’s closing reverberated across Facebook, I felt awful, truly sad. I didn’t know the reasons, or the real story but the loss of this special place just wasn’t right. In a community that is also home to two Starbucks stores – each literally across the street from the other – we need the individuality of our Shelby’s. The shops at 200 First Street just wouldn’t be the same without it. None of us would.
Well, the good news came today. Shelby’s will remain! While I don’t have all the details, it seems that the shop has been sold to some local proprietors, and Shelby herself will be able to retire. It appears to be a win/win for everyone … and there’ll be a celebration soon. There we’ll gather and clink our mugs and buy the kids an ice cream and sit in the shop or courtyard and count our blessings, for happy endings, these days, have sometimes been a bit hard to come by.
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Jeannie Greenwald is a blogger, neighborhoods / 'go local' evangelist, hobbyist photographer, and degreed psychologist.