Coffeehouse to perk up city's downtown area

Gathering Grounds hopes caffeine and music will be a recipe for success


March 09, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Need a caffeine fix?

Next month, Gathering Grounds Coffee House will join Westminster's Main Street and become the second downtown location where residents and visitors can perk up with a vanilla latte, cappuccino or a freshly brewed cup of joe.

"We're all caffeine addicts," said Stanley T. Ruchlewicz, administrator of the city's Economic Development Office. Besides that, the coffee shop adds a jolt to the city's business district, he said.

"The big thing in economic development is to create a gathering place," Ruchlewicz said. "It'll draw people and keep people downtown."

The owners - Carl Livesay and his wife, Brenda, and Bill and Paula Ehmann of Westminster - said Gathering Grounds will cater to an eclectic mix of customers - children, grandparents, artists and college students - in a community-oriented and family-friendly environment.

At night, the coffee shop will become an oasis for musicians, providing a forum for rookie and veteran entertainers. Eric Byrd, a jazz musician and faculty member in McDaniel College's music program, will be the coffeehouse's entertainment director.

"We're trying to take any excuse away for people not to visit," said Carl Livesay, who for 20 years ran a consultant business for small manufacturers from his Marriottsville home.

As for the coffee, Livesay said: "I'm focusing on making the best cup of coffee and the best cup of tea everywhere around."

For four months, Livesay and his partners scoured possible sites, including locations in South Carroll and Gettysburg, Pa., and researched the coffee business.

Livesay and his partners wanted to stay close to their homes, and Westminster not only offered proximity but also attractive qualities that would likely draw business, Livesay said. The advantages of opening a downtown coffeehouse include the presence of an office crowd, college students and adequate parking, he said.

"We want to be the unofficial welcoming center for Westminster," he said.

When it opens about April 15, Gathering Grounds will take over the space occupied by the Donut Factory at the rear of 27 E. Main St. Owner Charles Gillmore Sr., who is retiring, is closing the doughnut shop Sunday after 10 years.

Gathering Grounds, with its golden yellow and red brick walls, will be equipped with wireless Internet access. Its menu will feature several varieties of freshly brewed coffee and tea; specialty drinks such as mochaccino and lattes; and bagels, pastries and sandwiches.

In keeping with the coffeehouse's community theme, the light food items will be made daily by Carroll County businesses, including Kountry Kafe and Katering and Starry Night Bakery, both in Westminster.

Competition is just a few blocks away at a converted circa-1875 house on East Main Street. And outside the city's downtown, in the Safeway store at College Square Shopping Center, is the coffee industry's behemoth: Starbucks.

Janet Hollinger, whose husband owns the Pour House Cafe at 233 E. Main St., said her market research found that a city like Westminster could support six coffee places, including kiosks and other locations that sell gourmet coffee. With the addition of Gathering Grounds, Westminster would have seven locations for coffee, Hollinger said.

"I wish them well," Hollinger said.

Carl Livesay and Westminster officials say the city's coffee drinkers can support both downtown establishments.

"Both will offer different things for different people," Ruchlewicz said.

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