The Hippo


Jul 5, 2020








Owner Jessica dePontbriand opens her coffee shop jajaBelle’s in downtown Nashua. Emelia Attridge photo.


Where: 182 Main St., Nashua
Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Call: 769-1873

Homecoming for jajaBelle’s
Nashua native opens Main Street coffee shop


 Jessica dePontbriand can’t wait to fill her shelves with baked goods at her new coffee shop in downtown Nashua. But she’s quick to tell you, jajaBelle’s isn’t a bakery.

“It’s a coffee shop that happens to have an oven,” she said, sitting in one of the shop’s cozy chairs on a recent Friday morning. 
For dePontbriand, the coffee shop is both a magnum opus and a homecoming. 
DePontbriand grew up in Nashua, went to Destination Downtown (now Great American Downtown) meetings in high school, attended UNH and, in her senior year, drafted a business plan for jajaBelles. She recently moved back to the Granite State from Colorado, where she’d established jajaBelle’s at the local farmers markets.
“It’s surreal that it’s here now. For so long you say, ‘One day I want to have a coffee shop,’” she said. “I was careful to lay the foundation down.”
When her childhood friends visit the shop, which opened in late March, they congratulate dePontbriand on her new business venture and realized childhood dream (many with exclamations along the lines of “This is all you ever wanted!” dePontbriand said). She has memories of being a 5-year-old playing coffee shop with Playdoh food, Monopoly money and Cabbage Patch doll customers. 
Being a Gate City business owner is practically in her blood. DePontbriand’s grandmother and aunts (the Makris sisters) operated Makreena’s bakery on Vine Street. The former Nashua bakery’s sign hangs just below the menu board along with a photograph of her grandmother and aunts that rests on the mantel, a reminder of the family legacy. As a 7-year-old, dePontbriand helped her grandmother and aunts sell baked goods at an annual Gate City fair, and recently a Nashua woman recognized dePontbriand as the young girl at the same fair.
“You hope that what you’ve learned over the last 10 years, that you’ve learned something. But nothing can prepare you for opening those doors,” dePontbriand said. “It’s been me for so long, and only me. … I’ve been so lucky.”
The concept and business plan for jajaBelle’s — her childhood family nickname — won the annual Paul J. Holloway Competition at the Whittemore School of Business & Economics in 2003. After graduation, she started selling her pastries at craft fairs in New Hampshire before moving out to Colorado, where she operated jajaBelle’s on her own at farmers markets.
Now, dePontbriand has some staff helping her and a bigger menu, which includes espresso and coffee, with lattes and cappuccinos, iced drinks and teas, plus daily soup and salad specials and revolving baked goodies, from Greek pastries like baklava and kourambiethes butter cookies to banana bread.
In addition to stocking the shelves and cooler with her own baked goods, dePontbriand also views her storefront as a type of marketplace for quality vendors. Already, she’s started selling French macarons from Derry-based company Moochie’s Macarons.
The coffee shop has its own cell phone number, which many regulars are using to text their morning coffee orders.
In September, jajaBelle’s will have been open for six months, and dePontbriand is sticking to that deadline to stock her shelves. She said that much of the work is in the small, behind-the-scenes elements, and little-by-little, jajaBelle’s is becoming the coffee shop of her dreams.
“When this place is filled and it’s good, it’s bustling, there are moments when that happens and I just stop and look,” dePontbriand said. “This place is everything I love.” 
As seen in the June 26, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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