LaPlace PJ’s is so much more than coffee

Published 11:02 am Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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LAPLACE — To members of the St. John the Baptist Parish community, PJ’s in LaPlace represents so much more than coffee.

The quaint coffee shop environment at 1808 W. Airline Highway in LaPlace serves as a meeting ground, a place to unwind, and an opportunity to start the day with a friendly smile from a barista. The roots of the business run deep with homegrown owners who help St. John Parish thrive by supporting community events and organizations.

For Rene Phillips, PJ’s Coffee is the perfect place to teach his students the art of chess.

“The environment is safe, comfortable, family friendly and conducive for games that require moderate focus,” Phillips said. “PJ’s is a staple of the community as it has provided the forum and platform for various businesses and educational meeting forums. PJ’s also presents the ultimate mix of a social and family environment.”

When Baba Oncale walks into PJ’s each morning, she sees more than just the smiling faces of baristas who already know her order. Seated around the tables and booths are groups of ladies sewing and crocheting. Other seats are taken by students studying their notes in a quiet reflection.

“Going each morning starts my day off right, and I love the atmosphere full of people that are friendly and kind. One thing I really appreciate is that PJ’s supports and sponsors the community,” Oncale said. “It’s a place where you can go just to have one moment of peace and know you’re safe. PJ’s is my daily heaven and sometimes my evening meeting place.”

Leanne LeBouef, another loyal customer, said PJ’s is the perfect place to meet with a group, a friend, or even a stranger. The friendly and welcoming staff is a bonus to the coffee and keeps her coming back; sometimes she skips ordering on her app just so she can visit with the staff for a minute more.

“You’re guaranteed to get a ‘good morning’, ‘hello’, or ‘have a good day’ each time you visit. For me personally, it’s ‘See you next time, Leanne’ that I love to hear,” she said. “Greeting regular customers by name and welcoming new customers sets PJ’s apart from other coffee shops. That’s just not something you get much of these days.”

In the most recent Best of the River Parishes online contest, the LaPlace PJ’s was voted “Best Breakfast,” “Best Coffee” and “Best To-Go Drink,” reflecting the diverse range of quality coffee and pastries served daily.

However, Ali Stein, one of the owners of the LaPlace location, is most proud of the fourth category PJ’s took home in Best of the River Parishes: “Best Place to Work.”

“We tell our workers that you can make or break someone’s day. They may come in looking for a cup of coffee, but if you’re giving them an excellent experience, just by the way you make them feel, that’s what is going to make them come back,” Stein said. “The people behind the counter are not just here for the pay or for the tips, but also the reward of seeing a customer leave happy.”

According to Stein, PJ’s is big enough to be recognized as a franchise but small enough to treat customers like family.

“What separates us is that most of our commercialized coffee chain competition does not offer community support,” she said. “PJ’s Coffee is constantly donating to our community, whether it means sponsoring local events, offering our catering for fundraisers, or hosting events where elected officials can meet with members of the public.”

PJ’s LaPlace has hosted the sheriff via “Coffee with a Cop” and the superintendent during “Sipping with the Supe” events. PJ’s has also hosted events for the St. John Parish Economic Development Department, allowing the public to converse with the parish president and members of the parish administration.

Stein said bringing individuals of authority in contact with the public has opened lines of communication, allowing voices to be heard while finding solutions to move St. John Parish forward.

“It’s easy to make decisions in a setting like this, where you can meet in the middle,” Stein said. “When people have a coffee in their hands, they are a lot more relaxed.”

All three owners of the LaPlace PJ’s Coffee have come from a small business background in St. John Parish, and Stein believes investing in the parish is the best way to keep it pushing forward for generations to come. In addition to sponsoring River Parish Community Theatre productions, PJ’s has also supplied monetary donations, gift cards, coffee and pastries to various golf tournament fundraisers, recreational baseball teams, local dance programs, and the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Home.

According to Stein, PJ’s stands apart in supporting those who have laid their lives on the line for our country. The LaPlace location is one of the only PJ’s Coffee shops to offer a free iced or hot coffee to veterans and first responders every day.

Stein also teased new changes coming in 2023. After listening to customers’ requests, PJ’s Coffee is working toward establishing a more convenient customer experience in the months to come.

Business hours are 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, find PJ’s Coffee (1808 West Airline Hwy – LaPlace, LA) on Facebook.