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RIO GRANDE, N.J. (CBS) — Starbucks employees in South Jersey are being commended for their touching tribute to a regular customer who passed away. A photo that is warming hearts was first shared by Ginny Flynn Murray, a customer at the Starbucks on Route 9 in Rio Grande.
“The employees of Starbucks in Rio Grande are amazing!!” Murray wrote in her Facebook post, which showed two photos of a seemingly ordinary chair.
However, the chair is more than just something to sit atop. It’s an extraordinarily heartwarming tribute to a man named Jim Brannan, a customer who passed away in April 2017, but had touched the lives of the entire community beyond the coffee shop for years.
“Jim’s Chair” is the employees’ way of honoring and remembering a man who was a longtime patron. Brannan passed away from cancer.
“He came in every day with his wife Judy,” recalls Megan Schachner, an employee at the Starbucks and a neighbor of the Brannan family. “Jim would always get a grande Americano with an extra shot.
“Both him and Judy were like the regulars you love to be around. They were such a light when they came in the store. They were regulars for years,” Schachner adds.
The regular visits were pit stops following chemo treatments for Judy Brannan, who was battling cancer at the time. They would hang out at Starbucks and chat with the staff.
However, while her chemo treatments were working, Jim Brannan’s cancer returned. “All of a sudden they stopped coming,” said Schachner, who shortly found out later about his cancer.
He passed away shortly after his prognosis. Even then, Judy Brannan continued to visit the store regularly and the employees found ways to help her.
“He brought cheer and warmth with him every time he came into the store,” a temporary plaque resting on the chair reads.
The district manager gave them approval to take the chair from the old store to the new store with them when they moved and it has been there ever since.
The store has plans to leave the chair there indefinitely to commemorate Brannan. For now, a temporary picture frame protects a touching message to him while the store works to get an official plaque.
“He was a really good guy. Almost my entire team from Starbucks went to his funeral and, for his funeral, there was a line walked around the block. He was really respected in our community,” says Dan Murphy, the Starbucks manager.
Judy Brannan, the couple’s daughter, and their grandkids still regularly visit the Starbucks.