One step onto the dark, hardwood floor of Groundhouse Coffee and it feels like home. A barista with dark hair works behind a long counter, pouring coffee beans into a blender. To the left, a middle-aged man lounges in a chair and flips through a magazine. A teenage boy sits alone at a table for four, with lined paper, spiral notebooks and textbooks strewn out in front of him as he scrawls his pencil across a paper. In the center of the coffeehouse, a man and a woman sit at a high table and talk to each other, occasionally sipping their coffee.
Residing at 103 South Elm St. in Gardner, Groundhouse Coffee is this busy often. Since its opening in January 2012, Groundhouse Coffee has made a name for itself and been voted one of the top coffeehouses in the Kansas City area.
Even though the business is only four years old, the brick building it sits in has been standing since 1907. In the 105 years before it was a coffeehouse, the building served a variety of purposes, such as being a Western auto shop and a TV repair shop.
“I was driving through town one Sunday morning … and I was like, ‘Man, this town needs a coffeehouse,’” owner Steve Hines said. “So, I went home and I told my wife and said, ‘Hey, I think God is telling us to open a coffeehouse,’ and she wasn’t so convinced, but one thing lead to another. In six months, we were purchasing this space and renovating it into a coffeehouse.”
Gardner resident Lisa DeLong has been visiting the coffee shop for the past few years. She was driving around Gardner one day and noticed Groundhouse Coffee, and DeLong also had friends recommend it to her.
“The community does a good job of spreading the word of this coffeeshop to others through Facebook and through Twitter, and it’s constantly being spread about the place,” DeLong said.
To Hines, Groundhouse Coffee is “not just your typical coffeehouse.” He has seen his coffeehouse grow over the past four years, and watched the community claim it as its own.
“If you were to sit in Groundhouse from six in the morning until nine or 10 when we close at night, you would see a variety of people,” Hines said. “All the way from bible studies and group gatherings in the morning, the professionals coming in for their coffee on the way to work, some of the nearby folks coming in here midday, high school [students] after the high school gets out at 3:00, this place is jam-packed.”
While DeLong goes to Groundhouse Coffee a few times a month to study and get a drink, another reason she visits is the approachable atmosphere that the employees create.
“They try to know you by name, they try to make sure that everything is top-notch and that they have a setup that’s welcoming to all kinds of people,” DeLong said. “Whether you’re wanting to study, whether you’re wanting to hang out with friends — it doesn’t matter what you’re wanting to do. It’s welcoming to everybody.”
Hines takes pride in his coffeehouse and sees it as “kind of a hidden gem.” But, he doesn’t want the pejorative connotation of a small town to stand in the way of the good qualities of Groundhouse Coffee.
As a result of Hines’ decision to open a coffeehouse, his connection to the Gardner community has grown exponentially.
“My wife and I … have met more people, have gotten to understand more people’s lives since Groundhouse opened than we ever would have just living our lives here and driving to work everyday,” Hines said. “It really has immersed us in the community.”