Over twelve years ago, a coffee roaster, Julia, and her teenage son, Robert, worked together at a coffee shop in Culpeper, Virginia. From there, their love for coffee and appreciation for the craft blossomed into what we know today as Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters.
In 2012, when CWJ was just beginning, Robbie and three friends started bagging Julia’s coffee in a garage and offering free samples at local farmer’s markets. Before long, CWJ was selling in retail locations and offering single-origin coffee on shelves in dozens of shops, like north Arlington staple, The Java Shack.
In 2015, the Shack's long-time owner, Dale Roberts, asked us if we would buy the shop and continue to carry the torch of "Arlington's Original Coffee House." Buying the Shack allowed us to control every step of specialty coffee preparation, from sourcing to roasting to brewing. In 2016, the Shack was featured in Washington City Paper as the D.C. metropolitan region's "Best Coffee Shop."
As our origin story progressed, we also started playing with cold brew coffee in 2014. We started drinking it internally, eventually bottling and selling it to places like The Java Shack. Then in 2015, we started to experiment with Nitro Cold Brew. We began kegging it and rolling kegerators to farmer’s markets and installing them in local businesses like South Block Juice Company. However, what truly set us apart in the Nitro Cold Brew space was our entrance into the B2B market. With the goal of reinventing the way office coffee is consumed, CWJ started installing Nitro Cold Brew kegs in local DC offices, providing employees with NCB onsite whenever they desired!
There was a lot happening. The success we saw at The Java Shack and our customers’ reaction to our coffee inspired us to expand our retail footprint.
We launched our Nitro Cold Brew trikes in the summer of 2016, which timed perfectly with our decision to work with a real estate developer to build our first "Commonwealth Joe"-branded location in Pentagon City. Located by a Whole Foods and The Bartlett apartments, our newest shop open in fall of 2016 and is the first of its kind in the D.C. area. Like the Shack, it reflects the key elements of our approach: delicious hot coffee and espresso, multiple varieties of Nitro Cold Brew Coffee, and friendly baristas. The new location has been such a hit that it won Washington City Paper’s “Best Coffee Shop” for 2017.
Though the two CWJ locations differ drastically in aesthetic and appeal to diverse customer bases, one thing remains common - the quality of the coffee and passion for the process behind each cup produced. If you haven’t had the chance to stop by one of our two Arlington locations yet, come by and say hi at The Java Shack, located at 2507 Franklin Rd or Commonwealth Joe, located at 520 12th St South.
Learn more about our humble beginnings on our About page.
**Updated December 15, 2022: The Java Shack is no longer open**