Introducing Joburg for Introverts, a guide for those of us who hate crowds, and who just want to find a quiet spot to sit down and relax (and, ideally, for other people to leave us alone). Each month I’ll feature a place endorsed by me, a bona fide introvert, borderline-hermit, and if you’re looking for a ‘vaaibe’, you won’t find it here. A place is featured based on how tranquil it is, and gets bonus points if not many people frequent it (I’ll indicate quietest times to visit if it’s a popular place). I won’t review food and drink, but will mention if such things are on offer. This is a guide dedicated to My People, the introverts of Joburg. First to feature is Issy’s Coffee and Gift Shop in Forest Town… introverts, enjoy!
Not many people know about Issy’s, and that’s one of the reasons why I like it. Its location is also pretty unusual: it’s on the ground floor of the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre in Forest Town. I stumbled across this introvert-oasis when I visited the Holocaust Centre a number of months ago to interview the director, Tali Nates (there’s a long-form post about this truly amazing space, which includes an interview with a Holocaust survivor, coming soon). I loved how peaceful it was – the coffee shop looks out onto a little courtyard: it’s a place where you can take a deep breath, have some (very strong) Rwandan coffee, and just be.
Issy’s has only been open for about 18 months, and is managed by Courtneigh Bernstein, who opened the shop in memory of her grandfather, as well as in honour of all survivors of genocide (Courtneigh’s grandfather, Israel Gurwicz, was a Holocaust survivor). Along with coffee, you can have bagels and sandwiches, and there are a few things for sale, like books and jewellery. The books on sale, in particular, grabbed my attention.
There’s free Wi-Fi, no music, and the people who work there are the perfect combination of friendly and leave-me-alone. Lucky, who’s been working at Issy’s for about six months, told me not many people know that the Holocaust and Genocide Centre exists, never mind that there’s a little coffee shop inside, so it’s generally “chilled” (I’ve been to Issy’s twice, both times on a Friday late morning; it was practically empty and blissful).
I think that the reason not many people come here is because there’s been some confusion as to whether the Holocaust and Genocide Centre is open or not (for a while, it was closed to the public). It’s definitely open now, though.
Lucky did mention there’s usually a harvest table at Issy’s on Fridays at lunchtime, which attracts quite a few people, so best avoid it then – it’s also worth mentioning that on Fridays they close a little earlier, around 4pm, due to Shabbat.
It’s also great that Issy’s is attached to the Holocaust and Genocide Centre, as you can have a wander around (there’s usually an exhibition up), or you can just sit down somewhere and read a book. You’d think that a centre that focuses on a topic like genocide would be a bit of a downer, but for me, it’s the ideal space for quiet introspection – Rwandan coffee in hand.
Issy’s Coffee and Gift Shop can be found inside the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, 1 Duncombe Rd, Forest Town (just off Jan Smuts Avenue). Safe parking is available at the centre in Duncombe Road – just tell the guard at the boom you’re coming to the coffee shop. Open Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm (plans are afoot to be open over weekends). Phone 011 640 3100 or find them on Facebook