LEWISTON-Less than six months after opening its doors, Common Grounds Cafe plans to expand its offerings this summer.
The pay-what-you-can coffee shop in the heart of the downtown Tree Streets neighborhood is a training ground for teens who want to get a taste of what it’s like to work in a business. It was also a gathering place for the community, as evidenced on Saturday morning.
Damon Crouse is the program director at The Root Cellar, the cafe location at 89 Birch St. Together with his wife, Vicky, they came up with the idea of starting a cafe.
“Si Rknowing that Lewiston doesn’t have many cafes, especially those accessible in our local community on Tree Streets, we want to offer something that is not in the community, ”Crouse explained,“ and has a low barrier. … Our neighbors don’t have a ton of income. They come and gather and build relationships with each other in this space … (while the cafe provides) work experience for teenagers.
Crouse said they checked out other coffee shops in the area and talked to the owners about what it takes to run a cafe and what lessons they learned along the way. Teenagers were selected to work at Common Grounds make their own mission statement and objectives, which are reviewed from time to time to see if they have achieved the objectives.
Choosing to work there is not just a matter of signing up. Of the 10 to 15 teenagers who worked at Lew Crew, a lawn care and woodworking business connected to The Root Cellar, eight expressed an interest in working in the coffee shop. But Crouse wants to start with just four teenagers. That’s why he decided to make the selection process fair.
“We they were all written a 200-word essay on why we should hire them, ”Crouse explained. “So, I received four essays. So if they write an essay, they are hired. We were kind of hired and added to our staff as we needed.
Marie Dada and Nevaeh Warner, both grades 10, worked the day the Sun Journal visited. Dada said he wants to become a pediatrician, and continue business and health studies at Lewiston Regional Technical Center. Warner said he was accepted into the culinary program at the technical center.
Students Klein Dozolo and Mucyo Rayira worked as a barista and cook, respectively, but had sports -related commitments and could not work that day.
A regular influx of customers-regular and new arrivals-came and went on the Common Grounds, some enjoying freshly brewed coffee and breakfast sandwiches, others just heading out to socialize. No one was asked to pay. Others offered donations and tips, to help balance those unable to pay. It’s part of the business model and it seems to be working.
Anywhere from 25 to 75 people would enter the doors on any Saturday – the only day the cafe is open – and the business holds its own, breaking even every week, Crouse said, except for some larger start -up costs that include the espresso machine and other expensive equipment.
The teens and Crouse meet weekly for two hours to review their progress. “Part of that time is shopping for what we need the next week. About that time we look back at our goals, look at our costs, behold of donations to come. ”
Crouse said the program was successful and the community’s reaction inspired them to continue and hoped it would grow. “I think in the summer we will go open a few more days a week, because we were limited in school time. We hope to get an elderly camper and make this coffee trailer and be in different locations on different days to serve different areas of the community.”
Common Grounds is open Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information on the program, or other programs at The Root Cellar, call 207-782-3659 or online at https://therootcellar.org/.
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