It’s Friday afternoon, and you’re looking for a good place to unwind and hang out with your friends. Decision time: Java Jones, or Sam’s To Go? To the right, a group of frat guys strolls into Sam’s To Go and orders a few pitchers of beer, while “Soulja Boy” blares from the speakers around them. Just a few feet away at Java Jones, people gather together around a table to have a study session over some organic yerba matte. Although only a thin wall separates the two buildings, there is a world of difference between Java Jones and Sam’s To Go.
Established in Isla Vista in 1981, Sam’s To Go is a family-run sandwich shop that has a casual, welcoming atmosphere. â€œPeople come here when they want to relax at the end of finals and get a drink with their friends,” said owner Mehrdad Homayouni. If you are interested in winding down at the end of a hard week with a pitcher of beer and a gigantic sandwich, Sam’s To Go is definitely the place to be. Along with the sandwiches, it is also known for its lively social scene. “Whenever I bike back from class, I always hear the music at Samâ€™s To Go,â€ said second-year UCSB student Casey Capachi. â€œIt makes me tempted to look over and see who’s there and what’s happening.”
Homayouni, who also happens to be one of the owners of Java Jones, admits that although the music is often loud, it is only played to attract customers and add to the lively atmosphere. He deliberately chooses to play the music louder between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., which is prime time for people to come by and grab lunch. In the morning, he turns the music down so that people making an early-morning coffee run won’t be bothered.
Next door at Java Jones, however, people have conflicting opinions about the music. While Sam’s To Go is known as the place for big groups to party, Java Jones is the place where people go to catch up with old friends or get a little studying done before class. “I really like going to Java because the coffee’s good and they have comfortable couches. But it’s almost impossible to study or have a good conversation when Sam’s To Go is blasting music,” said second-year UCSB student Lexi Pandell.
Java Jones plays music as well, but it is generally much more soothing, and it is never anywhere near as loud as the music at Sam’s To Go. It has a calmer vibe, creating a more relaxed atmosphere. “Java Jones is a little funky, I would say it definitely has some serious funk elements,” said Java Jones manager, Tina Korisheli. “At the same time, I hope it’s a welcoming place. The only thing I’m worried about is that it’s too clique-ish, because we always have our coffee-house groupies who like to come here.”
It is not uncommon for coffee shops and restaurants to have their regular customers and “groupies.” What’s interesting in this situation is that while there is such a clear distinction between the clientele who go to each place, they’re only a step away from each other. For Korisheli, the difference is noticeable. “I would like to be able to meld the two places more,” she said. “Even people who drink need their coffee in the morning. But you know, they are two kinds of opposite extremes, so I don’t know how well they really mix together.”
While some students are annoyed by the clash between these two atmospheres, others appreciate the shops’ close proximity: if they want a cold sandwich and a hot cup of coffee, they can have the best of both worlds.
“I feel like everybody has a little bit of both inside of them, a little Java Jones and a little Sam’s To Go,” said Capachi. “It’s nice to see the two coming together. That’s what I.V. is all about.”