On the way home from work, it popped into Ken Moorman’s head: Open a coffee shop in Old Town Manassas. When he told his wife, Detra, she asked: “Are you crazy?”
There’s a helpful illustrated menu showing exactly the difference between a cappuccino and a latte, a kid’s drink menu and a lending library, all playing into its friendly neighborhood ethos. “Jirani is Swahili for neighborhood,” says Detra. “We want this to be that gathering space for people, that communal space.” Most coffee shops talk about investing in the community, but Jirani is living those words.
Three businesses rent out Jirani’s kitchen, contributing baked goods for in-store sales while being able to grow externally. Though the coffeehouse keeps normal business hours, the kitchen is in use 24 hours a day.
At 4 a.m., Melissa Jordan starts baking jalapeno cheddar bagels, specialty cakes and cookies with homemade fondant. After earning a degree in hotel management from Johnson & Wales University decades ago, Jordan re-entered the hospitality world with two steps: completing a cake decorating class at Michaels craft store and successfully baking a wedding cake. It gave her the confidence to start Works of Wonder Bakery. Through the morning shift you’ll hear Jordan ring a bell for each new batch of bagels.
As Jordan’s shift ends at noon, Lissy Tropea begins her to-do list and decides which pies (with fruits from the farmers market), quiches and scones to bake. Tropea is one half of Pies + Petals. Her mom, Mary Jane Tropea, runs LèRoy French Flowers. Together, it’s a pie- and bouquet-delivery service (though you can’t buy fresh-cut flowers at Jirani).
Taking over at 8 p.m., Jacqueline Knight starts mixing ingredients for Sweet Pearlz Cheesecakes, a company she started four years ago after retiring from Verizon. Her business focuses on catering with bite-sized cheesecakes, though you can also find 9-inch pies topped with sauces (raspberry port, caramel bourbon) developed by her husband. She works until 4 a.m., when Jordan will arrive before daybreak. Good thing there’s coffee.