What Fountain Square's Bovaconti Jewelers looks like now that it's a coffee shop
Every time a Fountain Square landmark changes, it stings a little bit. Yes, Peppy Grill needed that refresh, and the Coca-Cola clock atop the theater building couldn’t last forever. But the owners of Bovaconti Coffee haven’t forgotten the jewelry stores that occupied their Virginia Avenue building for nearly 75 years.
Brass lamps glisten like gold, diamond patterns cover the new floor and espresso lovers sit at a counter where couples once dreamed over wedding bands.
“There’s a lot of history here,” co-owner Justin Jones said in the days before the coffee shop opened Oct. 8 at the former Pedigo and then Bovaconti jewelers, 1042 Virginia Ave.
Jones and his business partner, developer Minda Balcius, spent so much time crafting a design respectful to the past that their planned spring 2019 opening was delayed for months.
Bovaconti Jewelers opened in 2010, replacing Pedigo Jewelers, which had been at the location for 64 years when its owner was shot and killed during a 2010 robbery at the store. Parts of the building date farther back, all the way to the mid-1800s.
“The ceiling had three dropped ceilings underneath it, and we went all the way up to the tin,” Jones said, pointing up to ornate scrollwork on tiles that were too far gone to polish. So workers painted them soft teal, a color found in the jewelry store’s original design.
Pale pink tile and plaster walls reflect another color construction crews uncovered as they peeled back layers.
Walls stripped to brick revealed a tiny fireplace steps away from an arched door frame. The entry leads to a quiet back room where a h teal velvet banquette begs lounging. Cozy, yes, but the room is also the site’s original building, which Jones discovered was erected around 1850.
The jewelry store’s Bedford limestone bricks remain by the front door. Signage embedded in the entryway once read “Pedigo Jewelers.” “Ciao Bella” is the new greeting.
Drink coffee like an Italian
Both jewelry stores were owned by Italian families. That link inspired the standing-room-only counter where busy people knock back espressos quickly and hit the road, as coffee drinkers often do in bustling Rome or Milan.
Espresso comes with a glass of refreshing, spremuta d’arancia, orange juice squeezed to order in one of the shop’s fancy, chrome contraptions. Another is the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine. Don’t be surprised at the urge to caress it. The all-chrome mirror finish is as stunning as a vintage Giulietta Spider’s lustrous, pouty lip bumper.
The Black Eagle turns out classic coffees — cappuccinos, macchiatos, lattes and Americanos — but Bovaconti has a specialty list, too, including turmeric latte and the Spanish latte with espresso, cinnamon, sweet condensed milk and steamed milk.
Meet the coffee fanatic
Jones rose to Indianapolis coffee fame within two years of opening his Mile Square shop, Georgia Street Grind, in 2017. The business was voted best local coffee shop in IndyStar's 2018 Best Things Indianapolis competition.
Beans are used within seven to 10 days after they’re locally roasted. Jones and his baristas taste test lots of coffees from Indiana companies to decide which ones make the cup. “We’re not roasters. We’re coffee curators,” he said.
The shop serves a few sweets such as pound cake, croissants and muffins. Italian-style sandwiches are coming soon, as is a self-checkout counter allowing guests to pop in and grab a juice and a snack in minutes.
The Plainfield native’s love of coffee service started when Jones left Indiana for New York City at age 20. He first worked in catering but ended up building remote kitchens for famous chefs.
“Masaharu Morimoto, for instance, was going to go off-site, for the first time ever, to do this Chanel fashion show. And he was so against it, but they convinced him,” Jones said. “They said, ‘Hey Justin will come and set up your kitchen.’”
Jones watched Morimoto and his team cook in their restaurant and then recreated the kitchen using rental equipment. “He could walk in, and it would be exactly like his,” Jones said.
The job required lots of travel, eventually bringing Jones back home to Indiana, where he handled restaurants at Downtown Indy’s JW Marriott. When he married and had kids, Jones wanted a stay-put position and decided on Georgia Street Grind.
The attention Jones paid to providing chefs the perfect workspace translates to his coffee career.
“My passion is hospitality. It’s not roasting. It’s not latte art,” Jones said. “Those are all really great things for me to know in this business. But my first and foremost passion is hospitality.
"I want people to walk in here and feel like they can order anything, that they’ve known me forever.”
Follow IndyStar food writer Liz Biro on Twitter: @lizbiro, Instagram: @lizbiro, and on Facebook. Call her at [email protected]