When Jason Waller began thinking about opening his own coffee shop, he had a lot more in mind than just selling a good brew. “I knew I wanted to run a coffee shop that was also a music venue, and I wanted to host different programs in an environment where people could talk openly without fear of someone shaming or judging them,” he says.
Waller, who has struggled with anxiety and depression, has been hosting his own YouTube series D.A.D Presents since 2016, which focuses on breaking the stigma tied to mental health issues. He wanted Waller’s Coffee Shop to be a space to foster discussion about and provide resources for mental health, including support groups and first-aid training. A musician himself, he’ll also host weekly live music at the shop, with songwriter nights and bluegrass jams. And, of course, it’ll serve as a place to sip coffee, serving Batdorf and Bronson beans.
“I want this to be a place that people can come for help, guidance, and just for quiet time,” Waller says. “I want to help make Atlanta a place for mental awareness for musicians and beyond.”
Located around the corner from Your DeKalb Farmers Market on DeKalb Industrial Way in Decatur, Waller’s will host a grand opening celebration on March 2 from 1-6 p.m. with treats from Ashley Sue’s Baked Goods and a lineup of live music all day long, including an evening performance from Mudcat.
Below, we chatted with Waller about his mission behind the shop.
Tell me about your YouTube series, D.A.D Presents.
[It stands for] Depression Awareness Dude. I was fed up with my own depression and anxiety and I wanted to out myself and interview songwriters. I would ask questions mainly about the negative stigma attached to mental illness. I didn’t want people to be ashamed or afraid to ask for help. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of—its body chemistry. People who get cancer or break their arm—these are medical issues that society deems okay. But when we talk about mental illness, it’s a taboo subject with many misconceptions.
How did the video series tie into creating Waller’s Coffee Shop?
As I progressed with my mental health, I started to realize what I was capable of and all that I had to offer to the community. Everything that is going on at Waller’s is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Coffee is just the vehicle. Though funny enough, when I started focusing on my own mental health, I stopped putting sugar in my coffee. That’s when I realized coffee could actually [have] taste, which sent me on my journey to tasting different brands and types of coffee. Now, I love learning about and tasting new coffees.
You’re also a musician—how has that role tied into the shop?
It’s me fulfilling my hero’s journey. I’ve been a musician more than half my life and with that comes many odd jobs. The other half of my working life, I was a wilderness therapy guide. When I quit that, I went straight into playing in bands and writing. But when I had children and started a family, touring with a band wasn’t exactly in the picture. So creating a music venue struck my mind.
What kinds of programs and activities will be offered at Waller’s?
I am continuing the D.A.D Presents videos by having artists—or anyone, really—talk with me about the negative stigma attached to mental health. I want this to be a place to somewhere for open dialogue.
We’ve had a great success with the Songwriter’s in the Round series every Friday night. Soon, we will offer a Saturday Wellness Program, and currently we are hosting Family Fun Sundays with a bounce house and other activities for kids.
It’s limitless what we can do with community programs here. Eventually, I’d like to open my office for therapists to use as a satellite office, create support groups, and more. It’s been tough in these early stages, because starting a business from scratch has taken up so much time, but I’m so excited to really get into all these things.
What food items are on the menu?
As of now, we don’t have a full kitchen. But we do plan to have sandwiches, soups, and baked goods to offer soon.
Why did you choose to use coffee from Batdorf and Bronson?
They provide a lot of training and technical support. When I reached out to them, we just hit it off. I learned about the company and the more I learned, the more I fell in love.
You used to have a coffee cart you took around town. Will you continue the mobile coffee cart?
I was selling coffee at the Avondale Farmer’s Market this past summer, and I’ve done different music festivals here and there. I imagine the coffee cart will continue, but for now, I’ve been focusing entirely on the brick-and-mortar.
What styles of live music do you plan to have?
I’m a songwriter that just wants to celebrate songs. Bluegrass, folk music, rock, anything really. But I’m going to start things off on the acoustic side. Mainly music that won’t be too loud and abrasive with the atmosphere, kind of Eddie’s Attic-style.