1104 B Broad St., Durham 27705
0.9 miles from downtown Durham
Hours: Mon-Fri 6:30AM to 6PM, Sat 7AM to 6PM, Sun 8AM to 6PM
The Vibe: Low-key, familiar, languid, neighborly
Wednesday August 14, 2019 @ 1:45 PM
It’s hot (91 degrees), still and humid outside. Students are still on summer break so it’s fairly still inside as well. Most folks here look like grad students. Serious vibe. About 10 folks – just seats about 20 – and only two people are talking. The rest have their attention to their work. One guy is reading a book.
The music at Joe Van Gogh today reflects the atmosphere outside and in: slow, and languid, like warm syrup. Angelo Badalamenti’s Audrey’s Dance, Dance of the Dream Man and other tunes are on the stereo. Badalamenti is best known for his work scoring films for director David Lynch, notably Blue Velvet, the Twin Peaks saga, The Straight Story and Mulholland Drive. Like I said, mood setting. The cult band Broadcast also plays. Their musical style blends elements of 1960s American psychedelic rock with electronica, to form “dream- and space-age pop”.
Tuesday April 2, 2019 @ 4:33 PM
It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m here at the Joe Van Gogh on Broad Street (one of three JVG locations in Durham) to buy some whole bean and do a bit of work. It’s quiet this time of day. There aren’t that many people here, 4 others besides me. And the two that are in conversation are talking in hushed tones, I assume for fear if they spoke at normal levels everyone else would be able to hear what they say.
The sound of steaming milk and the baristas crafting expressos makes the already quiet music that much more difficult to hear – the tinkle of spoons and cups, saucers in the sink, the clink and clank of stainless steel and glass.
Compared to the other two JVG locations, one in the Joe Van Gogh West End and the other in Joe Van Gogh Woodcroft, this one has a bit more character and unique style (maybe because it’s older?). It’s a coffee shop’s coffee shop. This section of Broad Street is a non-commercial but mixed-use part of town. Mostly bungalow style houses surround a nice selection of restaurants, bars, the infamous Green Room, a florist, hair salon, skateboard shop, funeral parlor, and other retailers. It’s too far from Duke’s East Campus to walk, so far enough to deter undergrads, but there are grad students here who probably live in the area -– and there are local residents.
JVG Broad Street is intimate – only 10 two-tops in total with one longer table that seats six. A unique, half-floor that perches above the small, splits the square room coffee shop. There are five tables on this “perch”, with bench seating for three of the five tables. Albeit limited, the short sidewalk space in front of the shop includes seating. Wooden, school-room style chairs and the Formica topped tables accentuate the café’s throw-back feel.
This JVG location has the most lived in, the most familial feel of the three. It feels like it’s a part of the neighborhood fabric. Folks of all different ages, races are here. Some look like regulars. Some here with (regular) friends. The sound of conversation permeates.
You can tell some of the students by their attire: a Duke student sits by himself, studying; two women who look like they may be grad students at Central; then a couple other people here solo, one taking notes from a text book, the other on a lap top. Also what looks to be a high school student completing a worksheet (the North Carolina School of Science and Math boarding school is at the end of the street).
An hour later the shop is a lot more crowded and a lot more active. Even though it closes at 6, at 5:31 people are still coming in, getting coffee and sitting down at a table (as well as taking out). The two women who were here when I arrived are still here, talking, a deck of cards between them.
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