July 27, 2011
The appeal of small towns and (some) college town communities is that ordinary places become extraordinary. Extraordinary places, however, like Grounds for Thought become legendary. I took a recent sojourn back to Bowling Green, Ohio, my old graduate school stomping grounds (no pun intended) where, for three years, I lived close enough to Grounds for Thought coffee shop that it was significantly faster for me to buy coffee than make it.
Grounds is greater than the sum of its parts, which is saying a lot since it is a used bookstore, used record store, coffee shop (with pastries and sandwiches), and community study area all in one. It sits in a prime location on heart of Bowling Green. So prime, in fact, that a Google map search for Bowling Green puts the pin less than a block from Grounds’ roasting center. Grounds for Thought is the kind of place where—provided that you are a resident of Bowling Green—you imagine who you want to see and they just may appear. An understated hub of the community, where you’ll find college and high school students alike all congregating, studying, and chatting well into the late evening.
Of course, I can’t mention Grounds without mentioning Cosmo’s Coffee, a poorly managed offbeat coffee crash that was my true first coffee love in Bowling Green. Cosmos was the misbehaving, underachieving kid that lived next door (or a couple blocks away, in this case), whose parents couldn’t help but look over at your honor student and say “why can’t you be more like Grounds?” Cosmos would then shrug, and say something like, “I dunno, but we’re out of espresso today.” It goes without saying that Cosmos eventually went out of business, but not before throwing a rather impressive funeral which featured live music, belly dancing, and a lot of alcohol.
Anyways, on a personal note, Grounds aided me in building the foundation of my record collection, which consists mostly of Paul Simon, Billy Joel, a couple Stevie Wonder, and a few jazz records that I keep saying I’m going to listen to. Their record collection has expanded from being a half-dozen rows wide to now taking up an entire wall (…though they still didn’t have “Listen Like Thieves.’ Come on, guys). I still have the entertaining memory of showing up at Grounds to search the “S” section for Paul Simon records, and finding thirty-seven unique Barbara Streisand records. I’m sure there’s a great story there.
Have I not said anything about the coffee shop? Oh…um…okay.
Well, first of all, Grounds for Thought uses a whiteboard, rather than a chalkboard for their menu. It seems trivial, but when practically every damned coffee shop in the greater Northwest area defaults to the chalkboard, it’s a refreshing change–not to mention just a bit…brighter. They make sandwiches, and their pastries are excellent. They roast they’re own coffee, and should you find yourself on vacation in Bowling Green, a bag of GFT coffee grounds is a popular gift. They’ve got a number of roast flavors that I can’t tell the difference between (hey, I never claimed to be a coffee reviewer), but all taste pretty good to me. My only strike against them is that they still use Styrofoam cups, which would get them a vicious liberal-lashing if they were based in the NW.
But they aren’t and they shouldn’t be. Grounds for Thought is Bowling Green, only with better climate control and fewer college chachis.