Biz Buzz, Oct. 9, 2016

A visit to the Mesa Mall these days includes strolling store aisles, stopping off for soft pretzels, maybe getting an eye test or a new hairdo.

Starting Oct. 29, you can add handling live sea urchins to the list of mall entertainment and activities.

The Children’s Nature Center — previously located in Fruita near the Interstate 70 interchange — is set to become the mall’s most unique attraction, with its wild animal displays and interactive educational exhibits. It will be located near Boot Barn, in the Sears wing of the mall.

The move is a matter of space, says the center’s volunteer executive director Janet Gardner.

Over the past two and a half years, the center has hosted more than 330 educational field trips, from schools as far away as Edwards, Aspen, Cortez, even Salt Lake City.

“Usually when they come over, a lot of times they’ll bring their entire grade,” Gardner said. As a result, many times half the class would have to wait at either nearby James Robb park or the Fruita Welcome Center while the other half hung out with the animals.

“The teachers really wanted us to be able to have all the kids in at the same time. In this new space, we’re almost tripling in size,” Gardner said.

In addition to getting more space and foot traffic via the mall, the center also plans to grow with the addition of more interactive exhibits, Gardner said.

The only exhibit not to make it over to the new mall location was the live bees’ nest.

Among the popular animal experiences that will make the trip is the archerfish demonstration — where someone holds a cricket over the fish, and it shoots a precise jet of water at it — and the marine touch tank, which features unique shrimp, sea stars (aka starfish) and the aforementioned sea urchins.

You might even get photo-bombed by a pig-nosed turtle, Gardner warned.

Hours at the center will be different than the mall’s. They plan to be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

More information about the nature center is at

■ The newest addition to the coffee scene downtown is actually the area’s longest running coffee business, according to the business’ owner.

Java Junction — now at 602 Main St., sharing space with A Robin’s Nest of Antiques and Treasures — is “the oldest coffeehouse in Grand Junction” at more than 20 years in business, according to owner Sterling Bock.

The business’ previous address in the Teller Arms Shopping Center afforded more space, perhaps, but Bock thinks the pared-down coffee bar within the huge antique mall will be a hit with downtown visitors.

“We just thought it was a really good fit (with the new antique mall), because we are all about old-time coffee,” Bock said.

Bock’s brewed coffee from the same small-batch roaster out of Salt Lake City for the past 20 years. His experience — “There’s not much that we can’t make. People come in and test us all the time,” he said — along with superior coffee quality and competitive pricing will differentiate Java Junction from an already crowded downtown marketplace for the drink.

You can enter Java Junction from Sixth Street, and the coffee bar is open at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday, before the antique mall opens at 10 a.m. They’re also open 7:30 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, for the time being.

“A lot of our old regulars have figured out where we are now, and (business) is starting to pick up,” Bock said.

He said the inaugural Downtown Art Festival drew a good crowd Friday, and many of the visitors were coffee drinkers.

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