Common Ground's new mobile cafe
The oldest operating coffee shop in Lexington, Common Grounds, is expanding as owners Lori and BJ McCreary have undertaken the shop’s latest growth initiative with the conversion of the I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt location in the Zandale shopping center on Nicholasville Road.
The new location, scheduled to open in mid-January, joins the original Common Grounds location at High and Grand near downtown Lexington and the Hub in Danville, which the husband-and-wife team purchased in the summer of 2011. The Zandale location will operate under the Common Grounds brand and will take full advantage of the drive-thru window for the convenience of its customers.
“One thing we’ve heard repeatedly from customers is how much they love it at Common Grounds, but they don’t have time anymore to go sit and enjoy a cup of coffee. Our Zandale location is our way of bringing the great environment of Common Grounds, freshly brewed coffee and unique food to those busy professionals and parents,” Lori McCreary said.
The McCrearys will initially offer coffee, espresso, other coffee drinks, teas and smoothies in addition to yogurt, ice cream, baked goods and breakfast sandwiches. Eventually the new store will further expand the food offerings.
The inside has been remodeled and offers seating and a small bar area.
Zandale is merely the latest of several growth steps that have taken place in the Common Grounds brand. After taking over Common Grounds and The Hub, the McCrearys evaluated the business and eventually implement some menu changes, including additional breakfast and lunch items. They put an increased emphasis on food and added monthly and seasonal items. For example, in the summer they have offered a “Strawberry Fields” salad, Sante Fe salad and a fried green tomato BLT sandwich. In the fall, the stores offered a pretzel brat on a stick that could be dipped in beer cheese. Winter offerings include a french dip sandwich and jambalaya. At the original Common Grounds location, they also added beer with a focus on local and craft beers.
And there have been plenty of new initiatives around town by the McCrearys as well. In October 2011, they took over operation of the drive-thru kiosk in the Hartland Shopping Center called The Daily Grind. In addition to an array of coffee and other drinks, they recently added breakfast sandwiches. In September 2012, they opened a coffee shop called The Hub in the Lexington Public Library’s main branch on the first floor. This store has a full coffee-shop menu with sandwiches, salads, soups and baked goods. In 2013, they acquired a food truck and made it a mobile Common Grounds. This bright red food truck can be seen at various events.
In 2012 and 2013, they expanded into catering and added commercial kitchen capability. That, combined with their chef, enabled them to improve the food offerings at all their locations and gives them a catering capability. This also gives them the ability to cater a variety of events big and small. For example, they recently catered an event for 250 people. Another recent event was catering the wedding of a couple who had their first date at Common Grounds.
In spring of 2013, after much research, they acquired their own coffee-roasting machine and now roast their own coffee. One of their specialized coffee flavor initiatives is using barrels of Willet Bourbon to flavor their beans before roasting. They are serving this coffee in their stores and selling the coffee by the pound. By controlling the roasting process in house, they not only control quality, but it also gives them the opportunity to develop their own flavors unique to their shops.
Another business diversification and growth initiative is their business-to-business sales arm. They offer roasted coffee, cups, DaVinci flavored syrups and Ghirardelli product lines for sale to other businesses. This is a business segment they expect to grow over time.
According to the McCrearys, eventually all Lexington locations will be branded with the Common Grounds name.