Java Ink closes unexpectedly; new cooking studio to move in

The owner of Java Ink is allegedly in some hot water.

The East Falls coffee shop apparently closed its doors earlier this month without warning: No signs were on the doors, and the business’ Facebook page has been silent since mid-March.

Located on Midvale Ave., Java Ink opened its doors in East Falls in July of 2010. Owner Sean Murphy told NewsWorks in an earlier interview that the property inspired him to create a unique pairing – a cafe that also functions as a tattoo parlor.

“I wanted to interconnect a comfortable, cafe atmosphere with the artistic environment of a tattoo shop,” said Murray in 2011. Plans to build out the tattoo element of the shop were expected to go forward last spring but it’s unclear if that ever became a reality. 

Currently, the lights are off, the gate is locked, and Murray’s vaunted antique furniture is nowhere in sight.

What exactly happened to Java Ink?

A March 23 arrest 

According to court records, Murray, of the 4200 block of N. Hicks St., was arrested on March 23 by officers from the 39th Police District on charges of indecent assault without consent, indecent exposure, and harassment.

Murray, 42, is originally from Long Beach, N.Y. and began his career in graphic design and tattooing. He decided to open a business in Philadelphia after visiting for a tattoo convention and seeing the mural art around the city.

Since his arrival, Murray has had several encounters with the local criminal justice system.

In 1999, he pled guilty to carrying a firearm without a license, and was given a sentence of 18 to 36 months. He was also found guilty of receiving stolen property, for which he received a one to three year sentence.

In 2006, he pled guilty on charges of simple assault and theft, receiving a sentence of six months to one year.

In 2012, Murray was found guilty on charges of institutional vandalism and criminal mischief and given 18 months of probation.

Relating to a separate incident brought before a judge that year, Murray was also found guilty of harassment. Charges of simple assault, indecent assault, and the corruption of a minor was withdrawn.

Murray currently remains in custody on $10,000 bail, according to court records. No one answered the door to his Nicetown home on Tuesday afternoon.

A trial for the current charges is scheduled for April 23.

‘He was a good neighbor’ 

Gina Snyder, executive director of the East Falls Development Corporation – whose office is just a few steps away from the former Java Ink – commented favorably on Murray’s demeanor, recalling that he had lead several Philly Spring Clean-Up efforts in recent years.

“He was always a perfectly decent person,” said Snyder. “There were no issues on a personal level – he was a good neighbor.”

Snyder noted that as a business entity, Murray and Java Ink faced the challenges that small business owner-operators face, namely one of under-capitalization.

However, Snyder noted that a new tenant has been found for the site. Little Hands Art and Cooking Studio, an all-ages cooking instruction outfit currently located in Sherman Mills, was said to be occupying the now vacant building. Snyder was unaware if this was a relocation or an expansion, and the proprietors of Little Hands were not immediately available for comment.

Mark Sherman, owner of the property, was unavailable to confirm details of the new tenant.

While the empty shop will once again be occupied, Murray’s enigmatic personality and iconoclastic approach to business will be more difficult to replace.

“This is not a corporate café; this is a personal care business,” said Murray in 2011. “There’s real passion here – we sell more than coffee.”

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