The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Magnolia Café closes, allegedly falsely advertised donations to Autism Tennessee

A representative of Autism Tennessee said the organization never received any funds from Goodwin or JP Events, while former employees of other café locations reported late paychecks.
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Magnolia Café, now closed, as photographed on Feb. 23, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Geetika Komati)

JP Café, colloquially known as Magnolia Café and Classic Café, ceased operations at its Vanderbilt location on Feb. 3 after opening in Fall 2021. Signage for Red Bicycle, a local coffee chain, was posted in its place in the basement of 6 Magnolia at the beginning of April.

The café was a participant in the Taste of Nashville program.

According to Chris Sabis, chair of the Board of Autism Tennessee, JP Café allegedly falsely advertised that a portion of its proceeds was being donated to Autism Tennessee. Employees at another location of JP Café told The Hustler they quit en masse after their paychecks began to bounce. 

A representative of Campus Dining said JP Café was operated independently by JP Events, Incorporated. The website of JP Events listed on Facebook is no longer operational. A website for Classic Café is still active and lists 6 Magnolia as its address. 

“The college is exploring vendor options and hopes to open a new café in that location in the future,” a representative for Peabody College said in an email to The Hustler.

JP Events is owned and operated by Aundrea Goodwin, who is unaffiliated with the university. Goodwin said the university made the decision to close the café. The university did not respond to The Hustler’s request for comment on this situation.

“We were told by the administration that they were using their option to cancel the contract,” Goodwin said. “That was really the only explanation we were given.”

Goodwin stated that Peabody Facilities Manager Janet Roberts was her point of contact with the university during the café’s operations. Roberts did not respond to The Hustler’s request for comment.

Victoria He, a sophomore, said she has been coming to the café to study since last year and expressed regret that it did not accept meal swipes.

“I think most students wish it was on the [dining plan] instead of Meal Money,” He said.

Alleged nonexistent donations

An article in the Nashville Business Journal reported on Aug. 6, 2021, that “a portion of JP Café’s profits go to Autism Tennessee,” a nonprofit that advocates for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. The article added that JP Events volunteers its time and resources for some of Autism Tennessee’s events.

“A percentage of the money you spend with this business stays in Middle Tennessee to provide Support, Education, and Advocacy for the autistic community,” signage posted at the Vanderbilt location of the café read, alongside Autism Tennessee’s logo.

Sabis said the organization is unaware of JP Events or anyone affiliated with it ever making a donation. Goodwin did not respond to The Hustler’s request for comment on JP Events’ donation history.

“At some point in 2021, Autism Tennessee’s former executive director received a communication from a marketing company trying to connect us with JP Events, which was apparently interested in a donation relationship of some kind,” Sabis said. “The marketing company stopped working with JP Events before any agreement between Autism Tennessee and JP Events was reached, and we decided not to pursue the relationship on our own and did not hear from JP Events further.”

Sabis said he no longer is in possession of the marketing communication; The Hustler was unable to independently verify these claims. 

Sabis also said JP Café was not authorized to use Autism Tennessee’s logo in its signage. He stated that Autism Tennessee was unaware JP Café was using its logo until 2022.

“We obtained pictures of the signage, which used our logo without authorization, and searched our records to try to identify any donations that may have come from JP Café or its ownership. Finding none, we sent a cease-and-desist letter to JP Café in November 2022 requesting that it identify any donations it had made to Autism Tennessee and cease using our logo,” Sabis said.

 After unsuccessfully seeking to contact Goodwin, Sabis said Autism Tennessee filed a complaint with the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office in January 2023, shortly after which he said the company heard of the café’s closure.

Reported issues at other JP Events locations

Goodwin managed another café in Nashville’s Entrepreneur Center (EC) from May-September 2021 with the name JP Café, which has also since closed. Angel May, the senior vice president of marketing and communications at the EC, did not respond to The Hustler’s request for comment.

Bria Thomas, a former employee of the EC location, stated that Goodwin stopped paying the EC cafe employees in the summer of 2021. Thomas said her conversations with Goodwin led her to expect to manage the Vanderbilt location before losing contact with Goodwin after her paycheck bounced.

“It was chaotic and not very organized,” Thomas said. “At the end of my time working there, everyone quit because she stopped paying us.”

Emma Johnston said she was also informally offered a job at the Vanderbilt location. She chose not to accept it after her experience at the EC.

“Our checks were late,” Johnston said. “They were off too, so she would always owe us money. She was lying a lot. It was starting to get very sketchy, so we all decided it [was] better to leave than to wait for it to fall apart.”

Goodwin did not respond to The Hustler’s request for comment on these claims.

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About the Contributor
Parker Smith
Parker Smith, Former Deputy News Editor
Parker Smith ('24) is majoring in computer science and political science in the School of Engineering. He enjoys playing guitar in his spare time and is a former Starbucks barista and self-proclaimed coffee expert. He can be reached at [email protected].
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