Jacks N Joe isn’t named after either a Jack or a Joe.
An all-day breakfast restaurant opened in December 2010 by Mark and Vianney Bednorz at the intersection of Adams Boulevard and Figueroa street, Jacks N Joe is short for “flapjacks and cups of joe.”
“Jacks N Joe is like our home. We welcome you to our dining room as our guest,” Mark said. “We want to provide a place where you can feel welcome to hang out.”
The interior certainly fits that philosophy. Mark, a USC alumnus with an architecture degree, designed the restaurant to exude neighborhood coziness.
Jacks N Joe offers lots of sun, air, fresh flowers and personal touches like dog portraits and casual breakfast bars.
Jacks N Joe is a family business. Mark and Vianney are the nominal owners, but every family member helps out with restaurant’s usual day-to-day tasks.
Their daughter Isabelle is “restaurant-schooled” by Vianney and always present.
Their son Julian, a USC senior majoring in architecture, pops by every now and then to assist.
Vianney’s sister Jasmine Lymon, a professional chef, mans the kitchen. Her cousins and niece help out frequently. Even Julian’s girlfriend pitches in as a server.
But the people who really make Jacks N Joe tick, the Bednorzes say, are the customers.
On any given weekday, they seat the USC swim team after its morning work out, the USC volleyball team in the afternoon and the USC baseball team in the evening.
“You see those girls right there?” Vianney pointed to a group of young women chatting by the window. “They’re the [USC] water polo team.”
But Trojans aren’t the only ones rejoicing to find a haven at Jacks N Joe.
The Bednorzes reported that occasionally the nuns from the local convent would brunch at Jacks N Joe and several long-time residents are already regulars.
“The neighbors who grew up here come and thank us for giving them something different,” Mark said. “They tell us most places around here are just commercialized fast food chains.”
Jacks N Joe was an idea the Bednorzes had for Julian’s school project on a local business proposal, which they decided to adopt as their own. In April 2010, the Bednorzes finally made the decision to materialize this dream.
“As a design-builder, I have built every other person’s dreams: their dream home, dream office and dream buildings,” Mark said.
“Well, this is our dream. The toughest decision for us was to not follow it. We only live once, and we didn’t want to spend the rest of our lives thinking, ‘What if. . .’”
Although the leasing process for Jacks N Joe was unusually swift and smooth — it took the Bednorzes only eight months as opposed to the typical year to open a restaurant — there were still bumps in the road once it opened.
On the first weekend since the grand opening, Jacks N Joe saw more than 150 customers lined out the door.
“It was a madhouse,” Vianney said. “We weren’t ready at all. We didn’t know how many people to staff, how many products to buy, how much to prep. We really showed our inexperience as restaurant people.”
But their success was as exacting as it was surreal.
“Normally I’m this high-pressure, crazy guy,” Mark said. “But that crazy day, when everything was going wrong, I just stepped back and thought, ‘Wow, this is cool.’”
That day, the Bednorzes got a lesson they will never forget.
“It wasn’t a failure,” Mark said. “We’re not by any means perfect, but we learned so much that one day. The next crazy weekend, we knew what we were doing.”
Indeed, now every weekend is a “crazy weekend” for the Bednorzes.
They didn’t do any marketing, but word about Jacks N Joe’s unique atmosphere and menu has spread across the community.
The “WTF?!” pancakes, misshapen pancakes with sweet cream cheese and berries, always draw a laugh from the customers.
For the Bednorzes, there is nothing better than making a simple change in someone’s day even if it is just a funny plate of pancakes.
“While Jacks N Joe was still being built, I would sit right here, imagining a group of USC students over there laughing,” Mark said. “And I would imagine them bringing their friends and parents here. Then I would also imagine the downtown people coming here for meetings. It’s so neat to see it play out before my eyes.”