Gathering Grounds (née Sweet Java Brown)

Atlanta, Georgia

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On my return trip to Sweet Java Brown the place was called Gathering Grounds. They appeared to have the same operating hours, but, as I have been privately insulted for making an issue out of coffee shops that close absurdly early, I will not rail too much on the fact that Gathering Grounds closes at 8PM on weekdays. I managed to roll in on a Sunday at about 11AM on my way to work. The hours of the beleaguered black collar slob begin to run together, it takes a force to pry oneself free from the trajectory to the office, even on a Sunday, yet I did. What takes even more effort is to scoop out of one’s day the mental space to enjoy such a deviation.

I wrote that first portion about three weeks ago on an airplane flying to Texas. I had to stop because I grew afraid that we were about to fall out of the sky.

Revisiting now my feelings about the place I find more tenderness in my views. I let the hours slip from my radar and see a well put together little shop with pockets of space called into being by furniture arrangements and taller elements (which might be shelves, yes, in my mind’s eye they are shelves) that remind me of what Mani’s Santa Monica would have been if the furniture store and the coffee shop that occupied a 5000sf space were drawn down to a more cozy 900sf. There was one strange detail that I did not care for. Instead of a wainscot or chair rail, there was a fairly heavy steel angle bolted to the wall at precisely the height that my ear would fall sitting in a seat close to the edge of the space. Although I am not so rude as to presume that it would be acceptable to lean my greasy head against the wall, it stirred discomfort in me just by making me picture how frustrating it would be to want to lean against the wall and find a cold unfinished piece of steel against that bony protuberance behind and slightly behind my ear.

There was one reason why I could not stay long that was not related to my desire to get to work. The clientele that was in the space with me was a bit too ‘regular’ for my taste. I like regulars. I have even been one for short periods of time. But there is a character within the pool of regulars who I find intolerable: the regular who wants everyone to know how regular they are. They force the barista to recognize it, to tout it for them. “You know Marcus needs space in his cappuccino for honey, right?” “Oh yes, I always forget that.” Or, “Do you remember that dog that was hanging around in the lot across the street?” “Yes.” “Janine finally caught it. She is taking care of it until she can find someone to adopt it.” “Here is Janine’s hazelnut steamer.” There is also the aspiring regular, who sits near the bar and attempts to insinuate theirself into conversations with other regulars, or to distract and garner the attention of the barista by starting catchy conversations. What is most painful, and what drove me to the door, is the failure of such aspirations, most notably, a baited prompt that began, “I saw Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young last night, they played for 3 hours.” “How was that?” “It was intense.”

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Gathering Grounds (née Sweet Java Brown)

1994 Hosea L Williams Dr NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30317

soymilk: no extra charge
fair trade: available
wifi: free access

3 Responses to “Gathering Grounds (née Sweet Java Brown)”

  1. j.h. trefry


    This is a negative review. As noted in the Jupiter Coffee review, it is rather a trek to take a coffee on foot in my neighbourhood, so when I get the chance it is a celebration, a coffee adventure. So, after checking the hours of Sweet Java Brown, and finding that they would be open until 10pm on Saturday evening, we felt assured that making the 2.7 mile walk to the shop would culminate in a pleasant sit and sip.

    The walk was wonderful, it was an overcast Saturday late afternoon, folks were on their porches and stoops to say good evening, and front yard gardens in Kirkwood were in bloom. Lwat81 sang “sweet java brown” to the tune of ‘Sweet Caroline’ while I sang to the tune of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown.’ We chatted about predator/prey dependencies and the types of flowers and plants we were seeing. As we entered the Kirkwood downtown we walked along storefronts, most darkened, reflective. Finally we came to Sweet Java Brown, it was darkened, the windows reflecting the grey skies, and the sprouting anger on my face. The shop had posted their ‘spring hours’ on the door.


    They closed at 3pm on Saturday. I won’t even get into they fatalistic outlook they must have if they cannot stay open past 3 on a weekend, or the blase freedom they feel that is due them as business owners that they could just close at 3, or the icy curse that I layed upon them for not changing the hours on their webpage. It was utter disappointment, and regardless of their reasoning, I think it is both inconsiderate and a bad business move to carry these hours. They either will not stay in business this way, and for that I am sorry, or if they do stay in business it will not be through customer fanaticism but through the financial backing they most surely would have to have in order to be so lazy. I am prone to offer second chances, and if I happen to be in the vicinity again I will visit and produce a proper review, bumping this into the comment section, but I am in no hurry. Thanks to Aces Bar&Grill next door for hooking us beleaguered travelers up with some chips and fresh salsa, and making our voyage a mild success.

  2. Amy

    Hey, everyone…I just found this site – it’s great, but this review is just absurd.

    Full disclosure – I work at GATHERING GROUNDS. It’s a great place and I stand by it. The comment preceeding this one is refering to Sweet Java Brown – which closed in June, 2006 and reopend as Gathering Grounds. We have decent hours: M-F 7am-8pm, Sat 8am-8pm, Sun. 8am-4pm. Honestly, if people in the neighborhood would come by more often in the evenings, we would be open later, but right now they don’t. Our hours will change when the traffic changes, so don’t fear!

    The review is odd…it sounds like this person just has some hang-ups in general, not necessarily things that relate to Gathering Grounds. We do NOT charge extra for soy (though most places do in Atlanta) and there are regulars, but they’re definitely not loud. We do have a decorative metal piece that’s on the wall, but nobody has lost an ear and it’s really not in the way. Goodness!

    We’ve started to have some acoustic music nights and we’re sponsoring neighborhood gatherings, so come check us out and see for yourself that this coffee shop is friendly, comfortable and NOT harmful to your ears! 🙂

    Please visit for more information and visit our blog at

  3. Loren

    Haven’t been there yet but I think I’ll definitely visit and review.
    Kirkwood seems like a pretty cool neighborhood and Im still new to Atlanta. When I visited , I felt like there’s a big change going on in that neighborhood. It seems exciting.

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