Kennesaw coffee shop with heart overcomes pandemic

two baristas behind counterPhoto courtesy of Independent Grounds Cafe

By Rebecca Gaunt

Lorna Heid has experienced some stumbling blocks since she first opened Independent Grounds Cafe in Kennesaw. But because of her determination to provide meaningful employment for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the shop is rebounding from the pandemic with a new location.

According to a recent press release from Independent Grounds:

Independent Grounds has its Grand Opening scheduled at 9 a.m. on Thursday, August 12 th. A ribbon cutting ceremony with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce will kick things off followed by a coffee tasting by Nick Bimmerle of Rev Coffee who supplies the roasted espresso and coffee beans for Independent Grounds.

Independent Grounds is located in the Bixby development near the intersection of George Busbee Parkway and Big Shanty Road. It is across the street from Fifth Third Bank’s Kennesaw State University Stadium. The coffee shop will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

“It’s an incredibly underemployed population of people who genuinely want to work but are often overlooked in the typical hiring process,” Heid said.

Heid spoke with the Courier when she opened the original location in 2018. The concept for the shop was met with enthusiasm, and even received a visit from the CBS46 Surprise Squad. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough foot traffic in the residential area to keep it afloat. Heid closed the doors after 18 months.

Next she formed a partnership with Roswell United Methodist Church for an onsite coffee shop. Then the pandemic hit. The church abruptly terminated the agreement in late March 2020. Heid expressed her disappointment and confusion on the coffee shop’s Facebook page at the decision.

From the press release:

Undaunted, Heid started looking for a new location. But opening a commercial property in the middle of a pandemic was far from ideal.

“I knew the concept was good but we needed a location in the heart of Kennesaw, ideally with easy access to the Kennesaw State University staff and students,” Heid said.

The Bixby, a student housing development located across the street from Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University, was under construction and Heid began reaching out to the developer regarding the available retail space.

Last fall, a lease was signed for 3061 George Busbee Parkway, Suite 2000, in Kennesaw and plans submitted for a buildout just as construction prices began to soar.

“What started as around a $150,000 buildout became a $250,000 project and I was devastated at the prospect of not being able to push forward,” said Heid.

A GoFundMe campaign was started and Heid went to work researching grants and lending opportunities from the Small Business Administration and others to cover the overages.

“Traditional lenders weren’t interested in funding what they considered a start-up,” Heid said. “But thankfully, I was able to find restaurant grants targeted for small mom-and-pop businesses impacted by the pandemic and targeted funds for women-owned businesses.”

Heid was able to secure a 2 nd Round PPP loan and grants from the SBA’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the Barstool Sports Fund and GrubHub’s Restaurant Strong Fund.

“We couldn’t have done it without the grants from people like Greg Hill and Dave Portnoy who saw a need and jumped in to help out small restaurants that weren’t able to access the funding they needed to stay afloat,” Heid said.

Heid has been able to rehire 5 of her former employees and hopes to hire on several more as the school semester begins this fall at Kennesaw State University.

Find Independent Grounds on Facebook here.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.