22 Feb 2012

Grounds For Thought: Not Your Ordinary Coffee Place

Author: Elyette Yert | Filed under: BGSU, Business, Local stories, Localizing story

The entrance to Grounds For Thought located on 174 S. Main St. Photo by Elyette Yert

By Elyette Yert

In the current economy, small businesses are trying to survive and keep their businesses thriving, despite jobs being scarce and the need for employees to have a formal education.

A local coffee shop, located in downtown Bowling Green, has been able to stay afloat by selling more than just coffee.

Grounds For Thought has overcome the bad economy by being not only a coffee shop, but also the largest used bookstore between Columbus and Ann Arbor with used vinyls and comic books.

In 2009, there were 27.5 million small businesses in the United States, according to Office of Advocacy estimates from the Small Business Association. Only a quarter of new employer firms stay in business 15 years or more, according to the Small Business Association.

Erik Chiarelott, instructor and internship coordinator in the marketing department, said that all businesses have been affected very negatively by the economy.

Keeping a small business in a bad economy is all about the relationship with the customers. Sixty percent of restaurants fail within the first three years of operation, Chiarelott said. Those that do survive have customer loyalty, he said.

“Grounds for Thought is placed in a small college town,” Chiarelott said. “The atmosphere itself allows for loyal customers who continue to support their brand. To survive in this economy, you must be customer-centric, have good quality products and have exceptional service.”

Kelly Wicks, the owner of Grounds For Thought, said the idea came about to his family on Christmas in 1988. It opened the next year in October of 1989 and was one of the first coffee shops in the area. Wicks’ mother came up with the name.

“It was the very first thing that came to her,” Wicks said. “It was a good name and it stuck.”

Wicks’ family travels between the 1970s and 1980s began their inspiration for Grounds For Thought. They found out what they liked and pulled elements from all over the country, Wicks said.

They had four or five potential spaces in mind for the location, but they knew they wanted to be by Ben Franklin, have a back door and city parking. They finally decided on 174 S. Main St.

“The space we found was perfect for our needs,” Wicks said.

The inside of Grounds For Thought where you can sit at the tables or look for books. Photo by Elyette Yert

Twenty-two years later, Grounds For Thought has over 150,000 books, seating for 100, a specialty coffee roaster, pastries, Ruggles Ice Cream, performance space and an art gallery. All types of events take place at the shop including political events, poetry readings, concerts, art openings, film viewings, funerals and weddings, Wicks said. Grounds For Thought has free wireless Internet and offers meeting rooms for any clubs, companies or teams free of charge.

Wicks explained what makes Grounds For Thought so different from other coffee shops. Unlike other coffee shops, Grounds For Thought is open from 6 a.m. until 12 p.m.

The coffee served there comes from its own wholesale coffee roasting company on Wooster Street, located less than one block from their coffee place. Grounds For Thought also brews for places such as Bowling Green State University and the cities of Toledo and Bowling Green. The store has a delivery service online and sells its coffee to places such as the Nest, Pollyeyes, Sam B’s and the hospital, Wicks said. Grounds For Thought provides free delivery within Bowling Green limits and will work with customers to create their own unique blend free of charge.

Finally, photographs from local artists are for sale and decorate the walls of the shop.

“It’s a real community center, a common space for people to meet and distinguishes between town and gown,” Wicks said. “Each day can be different. Sometimes that is a frustration, but it brings a new challenge to every day.”

Customers range from students and members of the Bowling Green community to people from all over Ohio. They come to Grounds For Thought for many different reasons, other than special events, such as studying, reading and socializing.

Claire Postl, a second-year grad student majoring in mental health counseling, said she comes to Grounds For Thought about three times a week.

Postl said she is a townie and knows a lot of people. She never goes there and doesn’t see someone that she knows. It’s very comfortable and homey, she said. She also loves the coffee.

“I enjoy the atmosphere and am able to do work, take a break, look for books and talk to someone I know,” Postl said. “You really lose time in here.”

Over the years, Grounds For Thought has continued to grow and expand, despite the bad economy.

“We have become more creative with what were offering,” Wicks said. “We run a tight ship and offer outstanding products for a fair value. We are continuing to grow and change as an independent family business with new and different things.”

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One thought on “Grounds For Thought: Not Your Ordinary Coffee Place

  1. Ryan Says:

    Hey, Elyette, thanks for the post about GFT. Truly a cultural center, a unique gem in an ever-corporate town, and a ‘brand’ that is inclusive of all.