Denim to decaf: Inside the Derby coffee house which replaced former Nixon Jean store

Outisde Nixon Coffee
Pictured is Nixon Coffee, which has undergone a massive transformation. Photo: Jerry Kahn

In the heart of Derby, a significant shift has occurred over the past seven months, marking the transition of a once-iconic jean shop into a flourishing coffee hotspot. Formerly known as Nixon Jeans, the renowned denim destination, the establishment has now undergone a striking makeover and re-emerged as Nixon Coffee.

Seven months ago, the premises, historically known and loved as Nixon Jeans, transformed, first as a barbershop and then as a hairdresser—successful precursors to the now thriving coffee house.

Glass display of Nixon Jeans.
Glass display of Nixon Jeans. Photo: Jerry Kahn

However, what sets Nixon Coffee Shop apart from its competitors is that the fabric of its heritage is firmly and visibly entwined with the décor and product it offers.

The coffee shop is located at 1-7 Abbey St, Derby DE22 3SJ.

Marketing themselves as a community coffee house infusing the coffee shop with elements reminiscent of its denim past, the owner has crafted a space that honours the many fond memories the people of Derby and afar have had through the generations.

Interior design (chairs) in Nixon Coffee.
Interior design (chairs) in Nixon Coffee. Photo: Jerry Kahn

Once owned by Vincent Nixon, who had established a pawnbroker shop during and after the war, he ventured into the new and emerging world of Denim, which up until then had been reserved as workwear. Taking the business to a new and wider platform, his son Alan Nixon made the shop, now called Nixon Jeans, into a denim mecca.

Glass display of newspaper article about Nixon Jean.
Glass display of newspaper article about Nixon Jean. photo: Jerry Kahn.

At the beginning of the Nixon era, a handful of locations were authorised to sell Levi and Wrangler jeans, including this location. The authorised reseller certifications are proudly displayed on the wall for customers to view.

Certificate of authenticity inside Nixon Coffee
Certificate of authenticity (glass display) inside Nixon Coffee. Photo: Jerry Kahn

However, this is an appetiser for the main event.

Former signage such as “ladies and men’s changing rooms,” a vintage Levi Strauss billboard that once stood prominently on the external corner of Abbey Street, and a 6-foot original neon 501 Jeans sign are all resting points for your eyes while you sip on a handcrafted latte or scrumptious Bellarocher milkshake.

Old signs from Nixon Jean
Old signs from Nixon Jean. Photo: Jerry Kahn
Billboard inside Nixon Coffee.
Billboard inside Nixon Coffee. Photo: Jerry Kahn

Jai added that the Neon glow creates a warm and inviting atmosphere aided further by the wood panelling and tables, all sourced locally from naturally felled trees at the Kedleston Estate. Internally, there is also a column made entirely of pennies, of which, when visited, there was a competition to count and guess the correct number, which must be in the many thousands.

Penny wall In Nixon Coffee.
Penny wall In Nixon Coffee. Photo: Jerry Kahn

Many people, especially the older generation who lived in Derby, knew about Nixon Jeans. Although very successful pre-2000, due to economic changes, particularly the lower operating costs in Asia, the denim trade, along with clothing as a whole, declined.

Mandhir Sandhu, a personal friend of Alan Nixon, purchased the property. He successfully let the shop and converted the upper floors to residential properties. Jai Sandhu Mandhir’s son had always seen potential in the ground floor shop in remembering the previous business. After a few tenancies, he created what is now Nixon Coffee as a form of “giving back to the community.” Jai said he had “tried his best to create a sort of museum piece for people to view whilst enjoying hot and cold beverages alike.”

Coffee drink from Nixon Coffee house.
Coffee drink from Nixon Coffee house. Photo: Jerry Kahn

According to Jai, customer support has been awesome and “local businesses approve of the addition. For many, it has been a relief to have a daytime space to meet with friends or conduct meetings within the locality.”

Interior design inside Nixon Coffee shop.
Interior design inside Nixon Coffee shop. Photo: Jerry Kahn

Spotted within the coffee house is a wide array of board games honing in on the community aspect that Jai has tried to create. It is well observed that this business was created with perfection in mind and success has firmly followed in second.

He said that before opening: “everything was ripped apart to the basics and redone, including heightening the ceilings, rewiring, new flooring and the use of reclaimed bricks to build the internal walls.” It shows that the shop would “not look out of place in London or Manchester,” which was written as one of the many 5-star reviews on Google by a customer.

Neon 'Jeans' sign on Brick wall inside Nixon Coffee.
Neon ‘Jeans’ sign on Brick wall inside Nixon Coffee. Photo: Jerry Kahn.

There really was a high benchmark we were working against here.” says Jai.

Jai said he was inspired to create his own regeneration within a part of the City that, up until recently, has suffered some neglect: “I think it’s in my blood to create and improve and being Derby born and Bred, I feel it is my duty to do my part.”

“We actually bought a number of properties from Alan, and prior to the coffee house, we created a gym on the same street, which we named Nixon Fitness.”

Aside from the coffee house and current business ventures, Jai has exciting plans in the pipeline for a street food restaurant, barbershop, and further residential units, which will undoubtedly support the regeneration occurring in the area, which consists of the new Becketwell arena, university business school, Duckworth Square, and regeneration of the old railway goods mill.

A customer named Aisha, who was a former university student, recently visited the coffee house for the first time and said: “I think it’s nice and I like the interior. It makes Derby so much more interesting.”