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CJ’s Coffee Shop: A family tradition

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CJ’s Coffee Shop in Rockville Centre prides itself in being family owned and operated. As the daughters of the owner, Chris Lawrence, sisters Loreen, Jennifer, and Kerri Lawrence have spent a lot of time in the Long Beach Road eatery throughout the years. The family restaurant is owned and operated by the Lawrences, founded by Chris and his brother John in 1979. The sisters have worked alongside their father for as long as they can remember. Some of their favorite moments with Chris have CJ’s as a backdrop.

“Opening with my dad at five o’clock in the morning was definitely my favorite,” Jennifer said, “the quiet, and connecting with him. We’d catch up on the day and what’s going on in my life. From politics, to religion, to drama when I was a teenager.”

Loreen was almost brought to tears when talking about all of the good times she’s had with her father at the restaurant. Although Chris Lawrence has played the role of both dad and boss to Loreen, Jenn, and Kerri for years, the sisters have nothing but positive things to say about the way their father juggles those titles. They partly attributed the friendly atmosphere CJ’s is known for to their dad’s sense of humor and approachability.

“Humor is a big part of what my father is and does, and people come to CJ’s for his humor,” Loreen said.

“Working as a family, humor has been used in all different [types of] situations,” Kerri said. “That’s something my dad is known for.”

Even if you haven’t been to CJ’s to experience Chris’ humor firsthand, a quick visit to the restaurant’s social media pages and website would let you know that humor is an integral part of this business. The company’s recent Instagram stories and promotions have featured various funny gifs. If you look further back to late March, you’ll see videos of Loreen dressed as an egg in an attempt to promote the business, reminding us the importance of not taking yourself too seriously. The company slogan, “If you don’t eat here, we’ll both starve,” also indicates just how deep-rooted the humor is.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, people have not been able to experience the joy of a traditional CJ’s service. The restaurant has not been open for dine-in service. However, the Lawrences have started offering their customers the option to have CJ’s food delivered, and the restaurant is open for take-out as well. So although they aren’t able to have the “Cheers”-like atmosphere in person, at least they’re able to have the food they love delivered.

Eventually, the sisters hope that CJ’s gets passed down to ensure as many people as possible, whether it be within their own family or the customers they would be serving, get to bear witness to the magic of a family-owned business. Jenn and Kerri’s children have already started living the experience.

“I dream that it just continues on forever,” Jenn said, “so that everybody gets to experience CJ’s Coffee Shop.”

“I hope that we continue to be the same staple that we are, and I hope we continue to serve the community in the best way that we can,” added Loreen.

The coffee shop has been supporting the Rockville Centre community since it opened its first location here in 1990. Since then, Chris and John Lawrence – and their families –

have worked very hard to make sure eating at their restaurant is an overall enjoyable experience. To Loreen, Jenn, and Kerri, Chris Lawrence is more than just a businessman. He is a father, a leader, a mentor, and a grandfather to his grandkids. Although those roles might overlap sometimes, Chris is sure to deal with any problems that might arise with a joke or two.