First Look: Community Grounds on Parsons Avenue
It’s been a long road for Community Grounds co-owner Joel Cosme, Jr. Even disregarding his childhood of chronic homelessness — during which he roamed with his mother from shelter to shelter in Seattle, Minneapolis, Florida and everywhere in between — it’s been trial after trial as he and his wife Tara Mullins-Cosme have worked to open their coffee shop on Parsons Avenue.
Cosme first announced plans for Community Grounds five years ago, subsequently getting hit with family illness, construction delays and bad contractors. Even in the night before soft opening on Thursday, Cosme and co. were experiencing equipment issues, searching for stores open 24 hours so they could get the parts they needed.
“We likened it to one of those home repair TV shows, where there are always issues behind the walls along the way,” Cosme said in good humor.
Despite the trouble, Community Grounds is here, at least for the weekend. Church and Community Development for All People, a nonprofit community development organization on the South Side, will host the Avenue for All Festival, and Community Grounds will hold its soft opening for the event before grand opening later this month.
Celebrating the history and diversity of the Parsons Avenue community, Avenue for All will offer a passport to use for visiting its participating merchants and organizations, including Community Grounds, All People’s Fresh Market, Parsons North Brewing Company, Little’s Village IGA, Local Matters, and more than a dozen others.
The festival falls in line with the purpose that Community Grounds set out with, to be a gathering space for all residents of the neighborhood. He also sees the shop as a mechanism for further engagement with South High School students and a sober venue not only for recovering addicts, but also for the neighborhood’s teens to experience community and engage in self expression through open mic nights.
“In my eyes, growing up, the idea of performing in a coffee shop, let alone owning one was not even in reach, not even a possibility,” Cosme says. “We want to introduce that to the kids and help them see there are people who are able to make things happen, even though they also came from challenging circumstances.”
With that in mind, Community Grounds will be divided into several spaces, including the coffee bar itself, an open mic area, and a meeting room. They offer a full espresso bar, along with a selection of frozen drinks. Bagels are a fixture on the menu, including treats from Everything Cake Rolls, like cheesecake in a jar and, naturally, cake rolls.
Cosme said they hope to become a Suspended Coffees venue, in which patrons can pay it forward and hold coffees and snacks “in suspension” for future needy customers. Ice cream is a dream item they hope to offer soon as well.
They’ve still got some finishing touches to add, including art from Art Outside the Lines, a gallery serving adult artists with developmental disabilities, with whom the Cosmes work closely. Cosme has close friends and family members, including a godson, living with developmental disabilities, and he envisions Community Grounds giving them opportunities for employment and more.
“One of our friends is an individual with a development disability,” he says. “She works at Planks now and became independent. We’d like her to work here, invest more in it, and show her how to become a business owner.”
Community Grounds will celebrate their grand opening on May 18, the birthday of Cosme’s father-in-law, a Vietnam veteran who passed away this week from Agent Orange-related Parkinson’s Disease. After that they’ll open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Community Grounds is located at 1132-1134 Parsons Ave.
For more information, visit mycommunitygrounds.com.