New coffee shop to open Friday


SIDNEY — Local coffee and smoothie lovers will have a new place to satisfy their thirst for specialty drinks beginning Friday, July 24, at 6 a.m.

That’s when High Grounds Cafe will open its doors to the public at 705 Fair Road.

A traditional coffee shop, the menu will include lattes, espressos, smoothies, mochas, blended lattes, iced coffees and hot and iced teas. Pastries from Brittney’s Cakes LLC in Troy, bagels and English muffins can accompany the beverages. Prices range from $1.50 for a regular coffee to $3.50 for specialty drinks. Pastry prices are comparable.

Within a few months, plans call for paninis, wraps, soups and salads to be offered, too.

The cafe will be open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. It offers free WiFi and a drive-through, and its owners hope that it will be a place for people to “hang out and feel comfortable,” they said.

The shop is the fruition of two years of work and the dream of Chuck Price and Chris Mullenhour, both of Sidney. With a group of local investors, they developed Kingdom Coffee Shop Inc. to open the cafe. Price serves as president and Mullenhour as business manager of the corporation, and Price is the general manager of the cafe.

“It is an incredible way to model what is happening globally in what is called the business-as-mission principle,” Price said. The shop buys its coffee from a roaster in Mechanicsburg who purchases directly from growers in 10 countries around the world. The roaster works with the farmers to improve farming practices and pays fair market price for the product. He imports 10 tons of coffee annually through direct trade and can document a chain of custody, according to Price.

“That’s one of the reasons we’re excited (about the cafe),” Price said. “There are 25 million people worldwide in the coffee business. Next to oil and gas, it’s the highest impact in terms of people involved. I’ve been involved for six years in A Call to Business. I did a trade fair in Singapore two years ago. That’s where I learned about what’s going on in the coffee industry.”

Because the coffee is purchased directly from growers, the buyer can assure it is of premium grade and has less caffeine than most packaged coffees sold in the U.S. Customers will find an atmosphere as welcoming as the drinks are.

High Grounds Cafe is comfortably decorated in muted shades of brown and gray, with photos of coffee farms on the walls and large, framed burlap bags that sport the names and countries of the suppliers. A mural featuring a giant coffee cup with swirls of purple steam overlooks a cozy nook filled with overstuffed chairs. In its corner hangs a delightful wooden shelf that looks like stacked cups.

The main part of the shop features half a dozen tables for two to eight people. There is an additional room, which can accommodate eight to 10 and can be used for small group meetings by reservation. High Grounds Cafe’s design was the work of Mila Hamilton, of Design by Mila. The building used to house a bank branch. The corporation has leased it with an option to buy.

“Jay Westerheide deserves a shout out for making our build out affordable,” Price said. “This whole thing has been a team effort. People were (even) showing up to help paint.” The location was important to the founders because it permitted a drive-through option for customers and “there’s nothing like this on this side of town,” he added.

Pam Wallis, of Sidney, has formulated the coffee menu and is helping to plan the phase-in of the food menu.

“I think quality is really important. We want to make one step at a time and make sure everything is the highest quality (before we move to the next step). We want to make sure everything is up to snuff,” she said.

Wallis also trains the baristas. When the cafe is fully staffed, there will be 10 to 15 full and part-time employees.

“We’re working with staff so they let customers know you’re welcome here and we value your business. We believe people are important and they’re valuable,” said Price.

The direct trade with growers has lifted many of those growers out of poverty, he noted. In Thailand, for instance, a farmer established Abonzo Coffee and because he was paid a fair amount for his produce, he was able to get 50 women out of the human trafficking trade in Bangkok. They now work on his farm.

“When someone buys a cup of coffee here, it direcctly impacts a farm somewhere where we get our coffee,” Price said. He also hopes to impact the local community. Making a large social impact and a small environmental impact is part of how Price and Mullenhour will measure success. Their conservative business plan anticipates their breaking even monetarily after a year. But, Price said, their investors understand that success of spirit is as important as turning a profit.

“We believe if we treat people right, if we operate the business on principles of integrity and honesty, that glorifies God,” Price said. “But this is not a churchy kind of place. It’s a regular coffee shop,” and the only traditional coffee shop in Sidney.

“It’s going to be hard to resist,” he noted. “When you open the door, you’ll smell all those great coffee smells.”

By Patricia Ann Speelman

[email protected]

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.

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