Change is brewing in the Pine Belt, and some of it has to do with the expansion of Java Moe’s, which was voted Best Coffee Shop in 2017 Best of the Pine Belt voting.
Kent McCarty, owner of Java Moe’s, is a graduate of Oak Grove High School and fan of all things coffee.
While a student at Oak Grove, McCarty worked at a coffee shop. When it closed, the opportunity became available for someone else to open one since their previous locations were up for sale.
McCarty saw potential in those vacant shops and decided to open up a coffee shop of his own, and Java Moe’s was born.
“I love coffee,” McCarty said. “I drink it all day long.”
When he was a freshman at The University of Southern Mississippi, McCarty also became a business owner at the age of 18.
The first shop opened in June 2012, followed by the second location in September of the same year. Then, later that fall, the coffee shop located inside Forrest General closed, and McCarty put in a bid for the spot.
By the end of 2012, he owned and ran three Java Moe’s locations.
“It was hard to focus when I was at school,” he said. “I mean, I already had a job, and I felt like I needed to be there all the time.”
However, McCarty credits the Java Moe’s staff for not only helping him get to where he is with his business, but for running things so well when he is away that he was able to complete his degree.
“It was definitely a challenge to balance college and business,” he said. “It was hard to make myself go to class, but I was determined to finish. I knew I needed a backup plan, and that propelled me to finish school.” McCarty graduated from Southern Miss in 2015 with a degree in banking and finance, which, he said, has played well into his job at Java Moe’s.
McCarty laughs as he remembers opening the first Java Moe’s and what it was like starting out.
“When we first started, there was no storage and we could keep all supplies at one location,” he said. “We had an attic filled with cups and syrups, and I made a run to Sam’s like every day.”
There have been a lot more changes in the business through the years. McCarty says they now see more customers between 6 and 10 a.m. than they would the entire day starting out.
But McCarty won’t take all the credit for the success Java Moe’s has seen through the years. Whenever the business is brought up, he immediately points to the Java Moe’s staff and brags on their work ethic and the many hours they have put in. “I have no problem saying that I think we have the best employees in Hattiesburg,” he said. “I can’t say enough good things about them.”
After graduation, McCarty saw his staff was doing so well at Java Moe’s that he wasn’t quite as busy as he was before. In the past year and a half, McCarty has also opened two coffee shops in St. Louis, Mo., with the name Deer Creek.
“I needed a project to keep me occupied,” he said. “My Java Moe’s staff was doing such a great job in their positions that I didn’t want to get in the way of that, so this new venture kind of found me. The business came up for sale, and I took a leap on that. It is the definition of on-the-job training.”
Now, McCarty splits his time between St. Louis and Hattiesburg.
“I try to be at both as frequently as possible,” he said.
He spends a lot of time at the Oak Grove location, as it is the busiest, especially during the winter months.
“I still work as a barista,” he said. “I love to see customers. Every day is different.”
In August 2017, the fourth Java Moe’s location opened in Merit Health Wesley and going into the new year there are plans on the horizon for a new coffee shop to open in the City of Petal.
“We are taking our time to do it right,” he said. “We are shooting for the first half of next year.”
The Petal location will be the first Java Moe’s shop to offer both drive-through and sit-down options. It will also feature a patio and an extended menu.
McCarty said there is a possibility of more food options coming in the future for that location, but no set plans have been made. McCarty and everyone at Java Moe’s are looking forward to what’s in store for the new year.
Nikki Rowell is the news editor at Hub City Spokes. When she is not covering the latest in the Pine Belt, you can find Nikki ordering her favorite drink at Java Moe’s, a Caramel Frappe Plus.