Coffee 6 Feet Under Grounds
The third owners were not the charm for Terre Haute’s oldest coffee shop. Established by George Shumay in 1993, the Coffee Grounds recently closed without notice to patrons or staff. Not that the people working there didn’t realize all was not well. Former employees interviewed asked to speak off the record. Already worried about whether they’ll even get W-2 forms so they can file tax returns, they don’t want to antagonize their erstwhile employers.
When Shumay sold the Coffee Grounds to Pete Wilson in 2006, it had become, as they say, a Terre Haute institution.
The general consensus is that the business was done in by poor management and an associated decline in quality. The owners were characterized as having no experience in business. Ironically, Shumay didn’t either. He had come to Terre Haute to attend Rose-Hulman, and when he opened the Coffee Grounds, he had a degree in mechanical engineering, not management or marketing or hospitality services. But Shumay did his homework, visiting several coffee shops in Chicago to get an idea of how they ran the places.
When Shumay sold the Coffee Grounds to Pete Wilson in 2006, it had become, as they say, a Terre Haute institution. It provided a place for live music, for poetry readings, for organizations to meet. It was a place where high school students could hang out in the evening, a place with a kind of sophisticated ambiance that showed you weren’t a kid any more. The customer base ranged from these teenagers to college students to doctors and lawyers and everything in between.
The third owners took over about a year ago. Baristas who had worked under the previous management could see the downhill slide. They stopped making items in-house and got baked goods from Sam’s Club, but continued to market them as homemade. They replaced the liquid chai with a powdered version.
Some days they were out of milk. They went a week without chocolate, during a month when mochas and hot chocolate were normally the best sellers. Sometimes they were out of coffee. The electricity was turned off twice.
Experienced baristas sought employment elsewhere. New people got rudimentary training. The machines were not professionally serviced. Formerly, the store’s mantra had been “It’s not just good coffee; it’s part of the community.” Now it wasn’t even good coffee any more.
Hours became irregular, and then they ceased altogether. A once vibrant downtown business had died.
There are rumors of resurrection, but for now there’s only the standard “For Rent” sign, and the former regulars have taken their coffee orders to Starbucks.
It is a good story. It is a shame that in such a short time someone can destroy what I built not to mention what George had built. We took it to new levels of volume after George. Even with the new owner it is floundering. There is a secret to success as a business owner, a basic rule to follow: “I’m the owner, I’m first in a last out everyday and I’m the last person to get paid.” to many people just don’t get this.
Wow, thanks! I used to live very close to the coffee grounds, so they had my business simply because it was convenient for me. I never liked Starbucks, anyways. I wondered what happened to the place.
I’m with Becca on Java Haute. I love the service and atmosphere, it’s a fantastic place to study. Plus, free refills of coffee. Coffee grounds charged a dollar for a refill.
Thanks for the insider information!
I was shocked to come home on winter break and see coffee grounds was already long gone. Good to know what exactly went down.
I’d be interested to know what the Sardonic Spectator thinks about Java Haute’s recent surge of success in recent years, and what the Haute’s doing that any future owners of the Grounds could take note of.