Curing fatigue with coffee and a kindheartedness

James Garrity’s job involves flipping, singing and dancing. Is he a circus performer? No. Professional gymnast? Nope. Acrobat? Guess again.

Widely praised by his patrons as the best barista in New England, “Jay,” 42, of North Attleboro, Mass., can be found tossing cups into the air, pouring coffee without looking, singing to the radio and even dancing behind the counter at the Hood Café at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass.

Just one sip of his delectable drip coffee lifts one from a morning fog. With a smile and perhaps a witty joke, Jay is able to revitalize everyone’s morning and send them off, ready to face the day ahead.

As the school day begins, students and staff herd into the Hood Café to start their day off with a coffee, a muffin, or maybe a bagel with cream cheese. Got an 8 a.m. class? No worries. Not a morning person? No problem. Jay’s got you covered.

“I know everyone. I know their names and I know their orders,” said Jay. “Like you! You like an iced coffee with whole milk, right? That’s what I love about Wheaton. It’s small, closely knit and everyone’s friendly.”

He pauses. A grin appears at the corner of his mouth. “Well, mostly everyone.”

Jay is the manager at the café, and he loves working there. Upon entering the small, homey café, one is sure to hear Jay’s incessant banter.

Whether speaking in Japanese to his colleague Katsumi, singing the lyrics to the song on the overhead, or attempting to playfully kiss his female colleagues, Jay provides the true Hood Café experience.

Jay handpicked his staff at the café and refers to them as his “all-star team.”

“I couldn’t ask for a better staff. They are a group of all-stars. They keep me going.”

Apparently, the feeling is mutual.

Rachel Foster, a coworker with Jay for three years, loves working with him.

“Jay’s really energetic and sarcastic, but he’s a great guy. He makes working here so much easier.”

Rico Salmon, another coworker and close friend of Jay, has worked with him for 10 years.

“The guy’s nuts! He’s crazy but he’s a very sincere, kind-hearted, generous guy who loves helping others. He’s like a best friend to me,” Salmon said. “He gives great advice and he has helped me through some tough times.”

Frequent customers of the Hood Café know Jay for his eccentric antics at work, but who is Jay Garrity outside the café walls?

“Who Jay is at work, is who he is outside of work,” said Foster. “He’s still the same energetic, funny, caring guy.”

Maybe so, but there are many other qualities to Jay.

For starters, Jay rides a motorcycle and dates a woman much younger than himself: 14 years younger to be exact.Though he refers to his significant other as “my girl,” others know her as Danielle.

On any given Friday, one can find Jay riding his motorcycle with Danielle, in the back, clinging to his waist. Wind through their hair, they will later be dancing the night away, enjoying some “booze with bite.”

“Life is too short to be held back,” Jay said. “You won’t get anything done in life if you’re shy.”

Jay is anything but shy. Just ask him how he met his girlfriend.

Out one evening at his favorite restaurant, Jay approached Danielle. He sparked up conversation by asking her if she wanted to come for a ride on his motorcycle sometime. Instantly wooed by Jay’s confidence, Danielle eventually accepted that offer.

“That’s pretty juicy huh? I couldn’t script a better pick-up line if I tried,” Jay said.

In addition to being an outgoing boyfriend and a skilled barista, Jay is also a family man who cares immensely about his kids: a 13-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son.

“You know that dad at the park with the kids being pushed on the swings? That’s me,” Jay said. “My number one priority has to be my children. Manual not included by the way.”

Loyal customers of the Café know Jay, as the funny, outgoing, skilled barista behind the counter, but what they don’t know is just how much he cares for others.

“I have been here a long time, and Jay’s got the kindest heart,” said Salmon. “As much as he jokes around, he always makes sure the student gets what they want, even if they don’t have enough money.”

Once, when Foster was having car troubles, Jay went above and beyond expectations and offered his unconditional help.

“Jay not only brought me to and from work,” said Foster, “but he also took my son to school.”

Jeff Paer ’15 provided a final example of Jay’s generosity.

“It was finals week and I was extremely stressed,” Paer said. “Jay asked me how my studying was going and I explained that I had a long night ahead of me. Jay not only wished me good luck, but he gave me my coffee free of charge and threw in two shots of espresso to keep me awake.”