Coffee company PJ’s is bringing ‘spirit of New Orleans’ to Dallas-Fort Worth

PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans brings its coffee beans and beignets to Dallas-Fort Worth. David Mesa, Chief Development Officer, plans to open 15 drive-through cafes in North Texas over the next 18 months.

“What we want to achieve is that we want to bottle the spirit of New Orleans and ship it all over the world,” he says. “Most of our focus – and you have to start somewhere – is in the south.”

PJ’s currently has 136 locations. The company plans to have more than 250 stores by the end of 2022, Mesa says.

Most of the CJ’s coffee shops have passageways. According to the chief development officer, transits have given their customers “a small escape route” during the coronavirus pandemic and they plan to continue to open transit stores in the coming years.(JASON JANIK / Special Contributor)

The first PJs from D-FW opened in McKinney in early December. Next up was a store in Northlake, a town near Argyle and Roanoke, in early January. The third is on Midway Road in Farmers Branch, a few blocks from Galleria Dallas, and opens on February 15th. This store is run by New Orleans born Brittany Willis.

PJ’s is named after its coffee-obsessed founder Phyllis Jordan. When she started the company in 1978, she didn’t set out to run hundreds of franchise cafes. “Her passion was really … creating, brewing, and roasting the best cup of coffee,” says Mesa. “The cafes were more of a by-product: if you want to make all this coffee, you have to have a place to sell it.” The first franchises were sold to Jordan’s friends.

The exponential growth began in 2016, almost 40 years after the company was founded.

PJ’s enters the Dallas market at a time when privately owned corporate, franchise and coffee shops have been booming for more than five years. Ascension Coffee is D-FW’s largest locally owned indie company, but others like La La Land Kind Cafe and White Rock Coffee have grabbed local loyalties. Starbucks remains the coffee giant in Dallas-Fort Worth, although Dunkin ‘and 85C Bakery Cafe have also spread to the area.

Independent coffee shops have sprung up in Dallas-Fort Worth over the past decade.  The biggest local company is Ascension - and it's still the biggest, even after cutting almost half of its portfolio in the middle of the pandemic.

Felton Jones, who has worked at PJ’s for more than 25 years and learned to roast coffee beans straight from Jordan, hopes new customers will notice PJ’s New Orleans roots and hardworking franchise owners.

“It’s very easy to see us in the same light as some of our competitors,” says Jones. “But one of the most profound things about us is that it’s not uncommon to go into a PJ and the barista might actually be the owner. We see that very much. “

The King Cake Latte at PJ's is seasonal and available until the end of February.The King Cake Latte at PJ’s is seasonal and available until the end of February.(JASON JANIK / Special Contributor)

While PJ’s will be selling chicory coffee, that’s not the company’s focus. Chicory coffee is made from roasting and grinding the chicory root. It is believed to have become popular during a coffee shortage in the early 1800s. Although the history of chicory coffee is linked to New Orleans, PJ plans to sell beverages made from high-quality arabica coffee beans, Jones says.

They say PJ’s served cold brew before cold brew was cool: since the 1980s.

Jones, the roast master, tastes PJ’s coffee beans while they’re at the roastery. For example, if you order a vanilla latte, you will be served a certain shot of espresso with notes of vanilla. Customers can add milk and vanilla syrup of their choice if they like.

PJ's Coffee will soon be selling beignets.  The shops are already selling slices of king cake, which are shown here.PJ’s Coffee will soon be selling beignets. The shops are already selling slices of king cake, which are shown here.(JASON JANIK / Special Contributor)

The same goes for PJ’s King Cake Latte, a seasonal espresso drink available until the end of February. There’s no sugar in it, says Jones: “We made this coffee with flavored King Cake coffee beans.”

Just in time for Fat Tuesday, PJ’s is expanding its menus nationwide to include fritters. Other items include muffins, croissants, cookies, and scones.

The company hopes to open coffeeshops in Euless, Grand Prairie, Southlake, Frisco and a second store in McKinney, says Jones. Mesa says the “outside-in” strategy: Establish a base in the suburbs before signing leases in Dallas.

According to Jones, expanding into Texas was a logical next step for the Louisiana company.

“Hurricane Katrina landed a lot of transplants in New Orleans, Texas,” he says. “There’s a lot of familiarity with the customer base.”

For more food news, follow Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter @sblaskovich.

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