Owners Mike and Tyra Harris stand by their business, PJ’s Coffee, located in Fairwood. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Owners Mike and Tyra Harris stand by their business, PJ’s Coffee, located in Fairwood. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Located in Bowie, PJ’s Coffee is a Black-owned, New Orleans-themed coffee shop for those who love coffee, not just a caffeine buzz. PJs has many fans in the surrounding area and enjoys strong ratings on review websites. You can find remote workers, Gold’s Gym members, young parents and plenty of others stopping by for a cup of coffee. 

The owners, Mike and Tyra Harris, were inspired to open PJ’s in 2017 after working together in law and noticing a lack of specialty coffee shops in their area. The first location they planned for was Bowie Marketplace but they reconsidered and moved to Fairwood after noticing a business opening. It’s a decision they don’t regret, as the Fairwood location is larger, cheaper and has more foot traffic from the surrounding shopping center and the Kaiser Permanente health center. 

Planning began in 2017, licenses were secured in New Orleans in September 2018, and the Fairwood location was eventually selected in August 2019. PJ’s officially opened in 2020, during the COVID shutdown and has been running smoothly since. 

The owners pride themselves on their beignets, the atmosphere, the specialty roasts and their ties to the local community. Living only a few minutes away on Church Road, they see PJ’s as a way to provide a service for their neighbors and a space for events such as book signings and art showcases. They take the time to provide education and mentorship opportunities for their baristas, strongly emphasizing manners and customer service. This is not the couple’s only PJ’s. They also own and operate another PJ’s Coffee located in Silver Spring, near the Fillmore and have been the roadmap to success in PJ’s franchises selling beignets, something they innovated. 

During the 2022 primary elections, PJ’s hosted a Civic Saturdays series to give candidates a platform to talk to curious residents and store patrons about their legislative plans. 

District 23 Senate candidate Sylvia Johnson launched her campaign in the PJ’s parking lot, in part to emphasize her commitment to small business and Black-owned businesses. 

“The staff and ownership were very receptive and welcoming,” Johnson said, referring to how she and her team were treated after presenting the idea. 

Bowie resident and former County Council At Large candidate Rudy Anthony is also a fan of the beignets. Several of the candidates in the County Council District 6 election, Bowie Mayor Tim Adams, and even Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore have stopped by. 

PJ’s also threw a Mardi Gras parade this year, attracting over 300 visitors with a jazz band and New Orleans native Mayor Adams to their shopping center. This atmosphere, bringing New Orleans flavor to the DMV, is their specialty and they plan to host a Mardi Gras parade annually.

What have been some of the hurdles they’ve had to overcome in building a successful business? Even though the business had expenses, they were locked out of PPP loans as they didn’t have an active payroll prior to COVID shutdowns and federal officials were unable to assist. Permitting agencies presented demands that further caused the owners anxiety, including a required grease trap estimated at $60,000.  Eventually, an agreement was made for a smaller unit. 

“Each of these hurdles cost time and tens of thousands of dollars to fix,” Tyra said. 

But the hurdles haven’t stopped the owners from making theirs a thriving local business. Stop by PJ’s Coffee, located in the Fairwood Shopping Center in Bowie, and get a French roast, a beignet and quality customer service. 

What do the owners recommend? 

“Try an Ethiopian roast for its sweet, cherry taste,” Mike Harris said.

Visit PJ’s Coffee online at https://www.restaurantji.com/md/bowie/pjs-coffee-/

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