Katie Rich’s fresh start began with a fresh cup of coffee.
After going through a rough period in life, Rich was left looking for something new in her career. Previously, Rich worked 15 years in retail, but she always desired to be her own boss and incorporate her children into her day-to-day work.
Not only this, but Rich saw a need in Hartford City for a place to gather together. Growing up in Hartford City, she had a passion for the people and community but knew the town lacked a community center.
“(In 2010), the downtown was very desolate, and I wanted there to be a place for people to be able to socialize or gather,” Rich said. “It was the perfect opportunity.”
Because of this, Rich and her dad began planning how to renovate an old downtown storefront into a coffee shop. Together, the father-daughter team created the vision for Common Grounds.
Rich’s father used his handyman skills to put together the woodwork and infrastructure. Rich let her love for antiques and eclectic decor shine for a curated interior aesthetic. She also began learning about coffee roasting and other skills through Alliance World Coffee Roasters in Marion.
The coffee shop of Rich’s dreams came together before her eyes when Common Grounds opened for business in July 2011.
Couches like those from the set of “Friends,” old magazine prints and knick-knacks cover the expanse of the shop. Frank Sinatra and other throwback music play over the shop’s speakers. She has created her unique version of a homey, friendly space for people to find a community.
“The flair in (Common Grounds) is . . . all the eclectic things — the books, antiques, vintage magazines and stuff in here,” Rich said.
As the same groups come in on a weekly, monthly or even yearly basis, she has seen Common Grounds become a part of people’s lives.
This remarkable support from the community has been the most special thing for Rich over the years. Common Grounds has not evaded the struggles of small town business, but Rich has time and time again seen people from the community rise up to support her business.
“I just never give up,” Rich said. “People are always so wanting (the coffee shop) too . . . you have your loyal people that won’t let you give up and want to support a local business. They want you to succeed.”
Because of this, Common Grounds has been able to keep growing. While the shop’s original niche was homemade biscuits and gravy, the menu has expanded to include more soups, sandwiches and weekly specials. Rich has also catered local events and hosted live music.
Barista Brian Ross, who has been helping at Common Grounds for four years, is also passionate about the coffee shop and has seen the benefits it offers.
“I’ve enjoyed helping here because it’s a good place for conversation with friends,” Ross said. “It’s good for the community.”
As the business has kept growing, so have Rich’s hopes for the future of Common Grounds.
Now, Rich looks forward to moving Common Grounds into a bigger space. Just a block down from the current storefront, she is renovating a new building she hopes will help her better serve the community.
“It just makes me happy that people want to come here and want to have me cater their events,” Rich said. “I want (the new building) to have the same homey feeling.”
The new building will have three times more space, which provides more seating, performance area and ability to cater. Rich also plans to expand Common Grounds’ business hours, so there is more availability for students. The new location is expected to open this winter.
While excited for the new chapter for Common Grounds, Rich is also thankful for the memories along the journey to this point. The current location — which was put together through the love and labor of her father who passed away in 2018 — will be deeply missed.
“So, all this work, all the carpentry that (my dad) put into this and all the hard work that we did together — (now) it's going to be just me on the street,” Rich said. “It's bittersweet to move, but I have to have more space. We’ve outgrown this area.”
In the end, Rich is excited for what the future holds. She has been continually blessed with people who support her passions and looks forward to the same support in this next chapter chapter.
Currently, Common Grounds is open Monday – Friday from 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. at 205 W Washington St. in Hartford City. Menu specials and events are posted on the Common Grounds Facebook page.