“I grew up in Jackson, Ohio, and like many of my peers, I wanted to move away and never, ever come back.
I headed to Ohio University in Athens and graduated with a degree in advertising management. Shortly after, I married my high school sweetheart, and we relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, to begin our professional careers. We lived in Atlanta for several years, then returned to Ohio when my husband Erik had a business opportunity.
When we settled back in Jackson, it was difficult to find an advertising or marketing job. I eventually found one with a community bank, and after a few years and a merger, I was managing marketing for about 60 banking centers across three states.
It was exactly what I had prepared myself for with my degree, but it meant sacrificing time with three young boys at home. Ironically, an accident at home left me with a broken ankle and lots of time to think while it healed. That accident ended up being a blessing because it led me to start my own firm, JSM Creative. My real passion and a niche I knew needed filling in the area was helping small businesses with logo design, marketing materials, a website, business cards, and social media.
I had a client in Nelsonville, Ohio, that I traveled to three times a week for several months, and there was a little coffee shop across the street from my client’s office. Two people were running it, and I kept thinking, “Nelsonville is smaller than Jackson and is supporting a coffee shop. I don’t know why Jackson can’t.”
That thought stuck with me for a while––and it reminded me of a dream I had for many years. I wanted there to be a little coffee shop where I could go and sit and work, have a latte in the morning, or meet with friends. That wasn’t really an option anywhere nearby. And then I had a crazy thought: what if I opened the coffee shop I always wanted?
I was on the fence for a while. My tipping point came at a fundraiser for the iBELIEVE Foundation, which sends high schoolers from around Appalachia to life-changing leadership workshops year-round. An honoree at that fundraiser said something I’ll never forget: “The grass isn’t greener on the other side. The grass is green where you water it.” Tears welled up in my eyes and I knew I needed to open this coffee shop.
Here I was, sitting around for 10 years waiting for somebody to do something that I thought would work and would be a good thing for the community. But I was waiting for somebody else to do it. That night convinced me that I should do it, and hopefully, show other people on the fence that they could make things happen, too.”
“When we started talking about where this coffee shop could happen, my immediate thought was to do it downtown. Jackson has a beautiful downtown with incredible buildings built near the turn of the 20th century. Many of the mainstay businesses there had closed, though. Ironically, we ended up buying a building that I could see from my childhood bedroom window, about a half a block away.
In about six months, we renovated this 120-year-old building, having to gut the entire thing and start from scratch to turn it into a coffee shop. I thought it would be fun to rehab an old, historic building. Fun isn’t the word I’d use to describe it now. A labor of love is probably closer to the truth.
We hand-chiseled plaster off to expose the brick wall. We spent three weeks taking up layers of old flooring trying to expose the original natural wood floor, which didn’t work. We found issues that forced us to repair the building structure from the basement to the roof.
It was a total family effort. I had two college-aged sons who came home to help over Christmas and Spring Break. My other son, a high schooler, helped many nights and weekends. My parents and in-laws, in their 70s, came in to help. There were complications every step of the way, but the beautiful building people see today wouldn’t have been possible without everyone pitching in. We ultimately opened in May of 2017––and I still remember putting finishing touches on the building the night before our soft opening.
I thought it was going to be a coffee shop with some pastries. I hired a pastry chef that would deliver four times a week to me, and thought ‘Great! Now I have a coffee shop I’ve always wanted!”
It wasn’t quite that simple. About three weeks in, people started asking for food. We started doing a very limited menu. More people asked for food, so we expanded our menu some more. Almost five years later, we have a full breakfast and lunch menu. We probably sell as much food as we do coffee.
We tend to be a place for people to come and hang out, whether they like coffee or not. At the same time we were building the shop, a local brewery opened at the opposite end of Main Street, along with a couple of other places that renovated these beautiful, old buildings. Everything caught on all at once, and it makes for a really nice downtown area with several destinations for food and entertainment.
We’ve also renovated the entire upstairs of our building. I have an office, and we made the rest a one-bedroom apartment that we use as an Airbnb. People who visit love the fact that they can stay above a cafe in a nice place that overlooks downtown.
We have visitors from all over the country who stay there. I always say you’d be surprised if you knew how many people stop and explore our community. Jackson is a great place for people who want to get outdoors, enjoy an authentic small-town feel, or need a place to stay in town on business. And with everything happening downtown, I think the community can be proud of what those people experience.”
“Jackson is at the crossroads of State Route 32 and U.S. Route 35. We see a lot of travelers who drive through on big day trips. It’s been incredible to see repeat visitors on their way to and from vacation or family visits who stop at The Spot on Main every time. ‘Do you remember us? We were here last year!’ they say.
I’ll never forget the time I was talking to two customers on a Saturday who found us while they were on vacation the summer before, and traveled two hours that day just to come here for coffee. We hear stories like that often, and it always reminds me, especially on the hard days, of why this place is special.
In late 2018, a couple from Los Angeles had been frequenting the coffee shop. They were visiting over the holidays, and one day they called me over.
They were getting ready to film a movie in Jackson and wanted to know if The Spot on Main would be interested in catering their movie set. It was a month-long project, twice a day for about 60 cast and crew members. So, in the middle of one of the worst winters we’ve had in a very long time, we fought through the snow and slush to cater to this movie set. I found joy in catering and pre-planning everything and then hearing people who have traveled the world as part of movie sets say how much they enjoyed our food and coffee was amazing.
That movie was an inflection point for the business because it showed me what we actually were capable of doing.
We had purchased a second building for the movie catering to store all our equipment and food supplies, and after the movie wrapped, created an area there where we can train new employees. We never had the room to do that before. We now have a training room with a television and new employees can watch a video on how to do latte art, then go around the corner and practice right there. That has been a real asset.
Shortly after, COVID hit. We shortened our hours some, we closed our indoor dining, and it was a forcing function for us to get our online ordering system up and running. We ended up only closing for about a week to transition almost everything about how we had operated for two and a half years.
I’m really proud of how we handled that time. We were able to serve essential workers in our community, or at-risk populations who weren’t able to make it to the grocery store. Of course, I felt like we had a whole new business when we reopened dining partially. We had a tremendous amount of planning and preparation to do that. COVID was a great example of how the business has become really nimble and adaptable to meet our customers’ needs.”
“Owning a small business is demanding, to put it mildly. It’s been a huge sacrifice for me and for my family. All three of my boys at one point or another have worked here––including over breaks from college and over the summer. It was just something that had to be done. My husband has his own business and will work a 12-hour day, then help here afterward and help on the weekend. It’s a total family effort to keep this place running.
We seek out products that aren’t found nearby in town and get them here. We signed a partnership agreement recently with Jeni’s Ice Cream. They started small and are now a nationwide operation. There wasn’t anyone within 30 miles of here carrying that ice cream when we started selling it. We’ve been selling Jeni’s for over a year, and people (myself included) love it.
Our business has really exploded in the last year. Customers come to The Spot on Main because of the great customer service, the coffee, the food. It makes me feel good that we’re offering the community something it wanted and that it’s been so successful.
I think a lot of people underestimate the people in a small town. Jackson is a city of about 6,000 people. People from bigger cities tend to turn their nose up at the thought of being in rural Ohio. Lots of negative stereotypes about Appalachia and small towns persist, and I’m hopeful that we help paint a more complex portrait of that ages-old thinking. I have first-hand experience in seeing people who have a negative idea in their head often experience the exact opposite when they visit Jackson. This community loves showing people from out of town what a special place we are.
You could probably ask any small business here, and they would say the same thing. We have a huge rallying support for small businesses. That’s probably one of the most encouraging and gratifying things––just people coming in and saying ‘We appreciate so much that you’re open, we really appreciate what you’re doing.’ That’s what makes the demands of small business so worth it.”
—Jenny Massie, The Spot on Main
Jackson, Jackson County