JOBURG FOR INTROVERTS – Issy’s Coffee and Gift Shop, Forest Town

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; if you’re looking for a ‘vaaibe’, you won’t find it here). 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. 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.

Issys coffee and gift shop
Issys coffee Joburg

Issy’s 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.

Some of the books for sale at Issys; the gay, lesbian and queer themed ones caught my attention. I suspect they're from a past temporary exhibition, called 'Out The Box: A Glimpse into 20 Years of Queer Archiving', to celebrate GALA Gay & Lesbian Memory In Action's 20th anniversary
Some of the books for sale at Issy’s; the gay, lesbian and queer themed ones caught my eye. I suspect they’re from a past exhibition held at the Holocaust and Genocide Centre, entitled ‘Out The Box: A Glimpse into 20 Years of Queer Archiving’, to celebrate GALA Gay & Lesbian Memory In Action’s 20th anniversary
Issys coffee
A sample of the menu, that’s on the wall. I haven’t eaten any of the food here, but it looks pretty good

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).

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.

Lucky: he’ll take care of you and leave you alone. Bless

It’s also great that Issy’s is attached to the Holocaust and Genocide Centre, as you can have a wander around (they have a permanent exhibition which is a must-see; read about it here), 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 and opposite The Westcliff). 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 to Fri, 9am–4:30pm; Sun and public holidays 9am–3pm.  Phone 011 640 3100 or find them on Facebook or Instagram.

Last updated January 2020

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4 comments Add yours
  1. Hi Kim, I’m so glad that you can relate. There are so many of us out there – we just don’t know it because we prefer to keep to ourselves (in general). I knew that Die Plaaskombuis sounded familiar and then I remembered that my friend Heather (a fellow Joburg blogger at had written about it – check it out
    It looks like a very relaxing, introvert-friendly spot.

  2. Hi Ang. As a fellow introvert I can so relate!.
    There is another place you might want to check out : Die Plaaskombuis in Bergbron (just down road from Gordon ave onramp on the west side of Jozi)
    Best to go on weekdays when its most quiet.
    Sitting on the wide stoep overlooking a fledging nursery with a cool breeze ruffling the old tin mugs strung to the wooden rafters -bliss!

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