In February 2013, Jill Rust ‘03 and Adam Rust ’02 opened AJ Mojo in Bristol, a premium specialty coffee shop specializing in coffees, espressos, blended organic tea, fresh fruit smoothies, frappes and other custom-made beverages. Located at 1501 King College Rd., the small shop with a drive-up window also offers the iconic Blackbird Bakery pastries and a few lunch sandwiches made from special family recipes.
The mojo comes in creating a successful business model with the combined talents and personalities of husband and wife. Both majored in business and after graduating from VI, Jill spent several years in pharmaceutical sales and Adam began a career in purchasing. “We balance each other in our different perspectives and approach,” says Jill. “Looking back, my professors at VI were very inspiring and if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be doing this today.”
Offering specialty baked goods through the partnership with Blackbird Bakery has worked well as an anchor to help bring in customers. AJ Mojo is managed by an experienced certified barista, and the coffee is artisan roasted by Zazzy’s in Abingdon.
The Rusts researched independent coffee purveyors and wrote an in-depth business plan before choosing the current location for AJ Mojo based on convenience and market trends of people on the go. With two young daughters, Eva and Emma, Jill says, “I did this with my kids in mind. The drive-up, especially, is great for moms who have young children in the car or people on their way to work. We also attract a lot of Tennessee High students buying lattes on their way to school, and the smoothies are popular with younger kids.”
What differentiates AJ Mojo? “We place a big emphasis on customer service as well as quick service,” Jill explains. “Quick service is extremely important to our customers, but we wanted a friendly place where they feel welcome to ask questions and we take the time to help them choose a drink or discover a new taste.”
Jill recalls talking to friends about the need for a specialty coffeehouse in her neighborhood and saying, “somebody needs to do this.” Her hairdresser (located nearby) finally said to her, “That would be you!”
So her advice to fellow VI alums and students is: “When you have a dream, take the chance and do it.”