The Porch is a great place to meet up with friends and chill.
Carol Eisenshtadt and her friends from the West Bloomfield JCC (now known as “The J”) were elated to be able to sit down, relax and spend time together. Most hadn’t seen each other since early in the pandemic, but they were recently able to meet for bagels and coffee at The Porch, a new kosher grab-and-go spot located just inside The J’s entrance. Eisenshtadt’s group has met at the venue twice so far, and she says she’s glad it’s there.
“It’s a place to meet, to have a cup of coffee and talk with your friends,” Eisenshtadt says of the space, which reopened this fall after an earlier pre-pandemic launch in 2019. “They may not want to go to a restaurant. They can go to this beautiful lounge, have a cup of tea, sit down and chat.”
Eisenshtadt, who has been a member of The J since its opening in West Bloomfield in 1975 and spent time on its board as well, says this is the first time The J has had a lounge for the public, where people could stop by for informal meetings and to connect.
The Porch attracts everyone from friends catching up over a cup of coffee to Frankel Jewish Academy students, whose school is on The J’s campus.
“In the last year and a half, they’ve repurposed this space, and it’s warm and welcoming,” says Eisenshtadt, noting that The Porch also has sandwiches, pizza and snacks on offer. “It’s not just a room; it’s truly lovely.”
Architect Arik Green, owner of Arik Green Design, remembers when The J’s CEO Brian D. Siegel came to him to talk about reimagining the space. They talked about moving the reception desk and about creating a connected feeling between the lobby and The Porch, so users knew it was a flexible space, open and available for work, study or relaxation.
“It’s a hub. It’s different settings,” explains Green. With various seating options, Jewish books and vintage J pictures on display, the space is ready for everyone, he says. “It’s open, comfortable, approachable to users of all ages within the building,” he says. “People are very comfortable stepping in there to sit and dine or sit and chat and work.”
The Porch is meant to be a resource for the community, says Siegel. Whether people shmooze over a cup of coffee while they wait for their kids, meet their friends for a game of Mahj or work on their laptop, it’s set up to be welcoming to all, he explains.
“My hope is that our community will think of it as ‘theirs’,” says Siegel.
“As we begin to get more comfortable with gathering, I see The Porch as a space for us to get reacquainted with sitting across from someone we care about and enjoying a beverage. There’s really no virtual substitute.”