It’s never easy opening a new business. When Jonathan Joiner started daydreaming about a place where friends who like coffee and friends who like beer could hang out in harmony, he never quite imagined the path his business would take. With the idea of what would become Buds & Beans in his mind, Joiner and his team started construction in November of last year in a Downtown space on the corner of Second and Gold formerly occupied by places like Wine Dive and Art Bar. On Friday, March 11 Joiner’s innovative new food and drink venue opened to an eager public—but not without its hitches.

It was, for starters, a challenge finding contractors during COVID. The kitchen’s grease trap, left to its own devices for at least a couple years, required some serious rehabilitation. The venue’s liquor license is still tied up in state paperwork, leaving the beer portion of the menu in limbo for at least another couple of weeks. The towering hydroponic plant wall, a centerpiece of the space’s “Boho industrial” vibe, experienced problems with the water supply. Hoping to get the plants back as soon as possible, the fellow who installed the entire contraption was hard at work on the metal-frame skeleton—even as opening day guests enjoyed their lattes. … Oh, and the place’s 24-year-old owner was finishing up painting the night before opening when he fell off a ladder and broke his leg in three places. He had to hear of B&B’s inaugural success via cell phone from a hospital room.

B&B’s general manager, Lisa Taj McCellon, admits there have been some bumps in the road. But response to the new space has already been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Despite the “delays and struggles,” Buds & Beans opted to stick with its original opening plans. Neighbors from nearby Downtown apartment complexes have already made the space a favorite hangout for day and night. “We set our hours to be a part of the vibrant Downtown nightlife,” says McCellon. Buds & Beans opens at 6am Monday through Wednesday, serving up coffee and breakfast burritos, but stays open until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Though the place has avoided installing a fryer and a soda machine, McCellon promises it’s not all health food on the menu. Build-your-own mac & cheese and build-your-own nachos are on B&B’s evening menu, currently etched on chalkboards by the register. (Oh yeah, the digital flat-screen menus over the counter are experiencing a few opening day glitches as well. Another entry on the “to do” list.)

McCellon, who has worked primarily as an administrative consultant, hadn’t originally planned to sign on as the restaurant’s general manager. But she found herself impressed by Joiner’s spirit and imagination. Joiner is a veteran who left the military on disability last spring. He went through the Small Business Administration’s “Boots to Business” program, an entrepreneurial education and training program aimed at transitioning service members to the business community. That’s where he developed his idea of a place with “great coffee and awesome local beers.”

Prior to opening Buds & Beans applied for a Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency “Downtown Storefront” Grant. The grant is targeted toward businesses that contribute to the Downtown Albuquerque life and have a hand in revitalizing it, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. The MRA takes a particular interest in businesses that are expanding into shut-down or unoccupied spaces. After Wine Dive shut down in 2020, a victim of the pandemic, the Second and Gold storefront sat empty for nearly two years. Buds & Beans will have to wait 45 days after they open to get the first half of the grant and another 12 months to get the second half.

Still, the MRA grant is a boon to the business because, as McCallon puts it, “It helped us be able to plan and put into place more employee benefits sooner, knowing that we would have that funding.” The owner and operators of Buds & Beans “believe in a living wage.” All employees get paid time off, regardless of the number of hours they work. And the business even pays for employee parking. “We’re not crazy enough to think we’re family,” says McCellon. “Cause that can get toxic quick. But, maybe, a community. And that’s the point of this business: We’re buds.”

Fostering that sense of community, the venue has included a stage, which will soon feature local musicians and performers. Future plans include things like drag brunches and community fundraisers. McCellon expects the restaurant to set aside a portion of each month’s profits to donate to a local charity. They’re already looking into partnering with Steelbridge, Casa Q and the Transgender Resource Center. A portion of the large space will also be reserved for displaying and selling local art and a “take a plant, leave a plant” exchange.

Speaking for Joiner, who’s busy recovering from his fall, B&B’s general manager says that her boss’s dream was to “reduce that isolation we all really experienced during the pandemic.” Between its welcoming decor, its expansive offerings and its inclusive space, Buds & Beans is doing its best to get people out of their protective cocoons and into a friendly local joint for a drink and some face-to-face conversation. “His vision was really about community,” says McCellon. So if you’re in the Downtown area, be sure to stop by Second and Gold and welcome Buds & Beans to the community.