Monday, November 3, 2014

@ Gathering Grounds in Wooster

Kailey, a counselor in training and militant feminist, was 
opposed to modeling initially, but I convinced her to cease her 
Feminine Mystique-thumping and counseling angst-laden
 youth long enough to smile and pose. (This caption
was written by Matt.)
Hold The Coffee makes its first blog stop in one of my all-time favorite small cities--Wooster! I know I say that about a lot of cities in Ohio, but Wooster has a special place in my heart. It has a vibrant downtown--whether it be a weekend or a weekday, it is home to two college campuses, and is designed well enough to preserve high quality farmland in Wayne County while managing a growing population.

The last attribute I needed to lock down was whether the city had an exceptional neighborhood coffee shop. My friend, Kailey Bradley, (whom I adopted from my boyfriend, Matt) and I decided to answer that question Oct. 25 while visiting Gathering Grounds. The coffee shop had its official "grand opening" earlier that week, but truth be told, it has actually been open since late summer. (So many businesses these days are abusing what a "grand opening" means.)

Kailey and I were met with grand showmanship and hospitality by Gathering Grounds' owner, Stephen.  His coffee intuition must have alerted him of the conspiring blogger in the room.

I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of the
sophisticated pour-over coffee workshop by diluting the
coffee too much with creamer and  sweetener, so I drank
my coffee black to blend into the environment.  Needless
to say, I won't be drinking my coffee like that again any time
Location: Gathering Grounds, which was formerly Woo's Brews Cafe & Coffee House, is tucked in a small alley off of North Market Street. It's tucked away so well that it took Kailey a few minutes to find the shop from her car that Saturday afternoon.  (Mind you, says Matt, she has an iPhone with a GPS and her tardy behavior was entirely unwarranted.)

The quiet alleyway is rather attractive, especially for people who prefer to drink their coffee outdoors.  Despite being quiet, the shop is only a block away from the intersection of Liberty Street, where all of downtown Wooster's activity is centered.

Although Gathering Grounds' location is a balance of serenity and excitement, its hours leave plenty to be desired. On normal weekdays, it is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday, it's 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. I've seen coffee shops with worse hours, but those coffee shops don't have two neighboring college campuses. Granted, it's a new business, but judging by Saturday's large crowd, I have a hard time believing there's not enough traffic to support expanded weekend and weekday hours.

Kailey was a pour-over virgin.  Unlike me, she's no stranger to
black coffee.  She's quite an earthy woman, says Matt.
Food and Beverage: Like almost every coffee shop visit, I intended on only buying the cheapest drip coffee that Saturday afternoon, but since drip coffee was not offered on the menu, Kailey and I ordered the shop's pour-over coffee. (I later found out that the place does offer drip coffee.) With an apple cinnamon muffin, Kailey and I spent $9 and change. Somewhat pricey, in my opinion, but when one purchases coffee in the pour-over method, one is also paying for the process, too. In case you're wondering, Gathering Grounds contracts its roasting with the Columbus-based, Crimson Cup.

Kailey and I were expecting a nice, quiet afternoon of catching up and gossiping about Matt.  Contrarily, Kailey and I received our $9's worth when we were met with a detailed demonstration of the pour-over method and a conversation of its impact on the taste and culture of coffee. I swear, this owner should lead workshops all of time! Not only did he dedicate 10 minutes talking to us like a good bartender, (for the record, "barista" actually means, "bartender") but also gave us and every patron in the shop, a complimentary freshly-baked cookie. (There was a catch, however: we had to like his business on Facebook. Little does he know, I've liked every neighborhood coffee shop's Facebook page between Columbus and Buffalo--whether I've visited them or not.)

Here is the owner, Steven, giving out cookies for Facebook
likes. As of Nov. 2, Kailey still has not liked Gathering
Grounds on Facebook.  She owes Steven a cookie...
After that, Steven wielded his guitar and played some music. He should win an award for most dedicated coffee shop owner.

Space and Atmosphere: Gathering Grounds is a perfect interior design guidebook poster child for making an attractive neighborhood coffee shop. It has wooden flooring, plenty of natural light, an elongated space, an exposed brick wall on one side with warm, mocha walls elsewhere. Gathering Grounds' wooden and tiled counter at the coffee bar was the most aesthetically striking feature. I am not often eager to sit at bar-stool areas like Matt, but as soon as my eyes caught sight of the counter table, I knew there was no better place to sit.

It's a shame that I may never have a chance to show my boyfriend the majestic bar counter due to Gathering Grounds' restrictive weekend hours, and Matt even stranger nursing hours. If Steven is reading this post, which I know he must be, I urge him to consider expanding the coffee shop's hours.  :)

You can see part of the beautiful coffee counter!  
Pour Cleveland in downtown Cleveland expanded its hours earlier this year. I'm not saying my blog post was the ground breaker for their decision nor that I possess psychic powers, but the change did happen just days after it was posted online.  Coincidence? You decide for yourself...

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.


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