Dragon's lady: From Mexican retirement to java on Preston

After working as a chiropractor in Charlottesville for many years, Kem Spaulding retired to Mexico with her mother.

"I lived there for four years," she says. "I loved Mexico. It was so beautiful. But it wasn't enough. I asked myself what was more important, a new vista or being around people who know you?"

Spaulding also discovered that she did not like not working. But what could she do? She had given up her practice and didn't want to return to the profession anyway.

She decided to come back to Charlottesville and find out. Her mother stayed in Mexico.

Sitting in a local coffee house, which she would not name, the answer came to her.

Spaulding was an unlikely coffee-house owner. For starters, she didn't drink coffee or know how to make it. And as a health professional, she had spent years telling people not to drink too much of it. However, back in the 1970s she had owned two health food stores.

"But I liked the comfort and coziness of a place like the Tea Bazaar," she says. "I wanted to create a place where people and groups could meet in a tranquil, comfortable space."

So last June, Java Dragon in the Preston Plaza was born.

Spaulding says a friend came up with the name, and she immediately took to it.

"I'm into Asian culture, and I'm a Buddhist, and the dragon fire roasts the beans!" she laughs.

Since its opening, business at Java Dragon has been up and down, Spaulding says.

"We have to be found," she says.

When you do locate Java Dragon, you'll find a brightly lit space with a kind of living room area, a dining room area, and stools near a counter. Plus, you'll find vibrant artwork on the wall.

"First Fridays have been very successful for us," she says. "We always have a new exhibit on the walls."

Local groups and clubs have found the place attractive as well, gathering in the comfortable 'living room" area for meetings. Spaulding, a self-described political junkie, is also open to the idea of hosting politicians and political functions.

Having finally learned how to make a cup of coffee, she gets her beans locally from Trager Brothers, and her chocolates and teas are all organic. The shop offers pastries, too, but Spaulding says she tries not to stock anything too sugary.

While she's now in the coffee business– and the creating-a-comfortable-space business– her healthcare background still seeps through.

"Coffee is a natural drug, but it is a drug," she says. "People need to remember that." 

Read more on: Java Dragon