Nick Armstrong and Robin MacDougall didn’t know each other until they came into contact through a mutual friend who helped connect them because of a shared vision of a coffee shop on Main Street in Russell Springs.
From that meeting, Armstrong and MacDougall had visions and goals that aligned really well, all aside from a name. After some debate, a conclusion was reached. A common ground, one would say.
Thus, Common Grounds Coffee and Yoga was born, with Armstrong and MacDougall opening the shop earlier this month to the Russell County community.
“She had a name picked out and I had a name picked out before we even met,” Armstrong said. “We were both really partial to our names and that was the thing we even remotely, and I wouldn’t even call it a disagreement, but we were both just partial to our names. We finally reached a place where we dropped both of our name choices and came up with one together… Common Grounds just seemed to stand out and it was fitting because we had to come to common grounds.”
Armstrong said the name fits the vision of what he and MacDougall hope the coffee shop becomes.
“We wanted this to be common grounds for people in the community,” Armstrong said. “We wanted this to be a place where people came to gather, hang out with each other, get to know each other, meet new people, relax, utilize free Wi-Fi, and things like that.”
Part of that vision from MacDougall’s side involved local artists. MacDougall hopes in the future to be able to use the shop as an area to showcase the work of local artists. Coffee shops are also a popular hangout for book lovers, and MacDougall hopes to add a “leave a book, take a book” system.
“We’d like to have something like a community book shelf where people can read while they’re here or something where people bring a book in and take a book home,” MacDougall said.
The invitation to local artists hopes to be expanded to musicians, writers, etc.
Armstrong and MacDougall envision a coffee shop that is very community-oriented and plays a role in the revitalization of Main Street, while providing a modern coffee shop atmosphere that still provides a sense of nostalgia for some.
“We very much like the idea of a modernized coffee shop but also wanted to implement some feel of a modern coffee shop, but something that is sentimental to the community,” Armstrong said. “We have an old picture of the Star Theatre in here and some of the old advertisements and stuff are still in here, so we are trying to bring all that together in a modern historicity, you could say. We want this to be a place that is sentimental, a place where everyone feels welcome.”
Common Grounds resides in the old Rusty Springs building on Main Street in Russell Springs, a property Armstrong purchased earlier this year. Armstrong, President of the Lake Cumberland Breakaway Project, purchased properties on Main Street to bring together Lake Cumberland Breakaway Project, Serenity Counseling Services, and a coffee shop, which would later become Common Grounds.
Being in such a historic building brings back a lot of great memories for customers, Armstrong said.
“A lot of people remember this building as the Rusty Springs building and they’re really partial to it,” Armstrong said. “All kinds of people come in and talk about the old candy case and the history behind it or the peanut roaster, and just remembering those things from when they were kids.”
Part of that history is a Main Street that is bustling with activity. Many folks in the community hold fond memories of Main Street in Russell Springs as a place filled with people walking up and down the sidewalks, stopping in local shops, or just cruising the street.
Armstrong and MacDougall said they love the idea of a revitalized Main Street, and the coffee shop could play a role in that.
“I’ve always loved the old Andy Griffith mentality of seeing people out walking up and down the sidewalks,” Armstrong said. “Main Street is a place where it’s really nice to see people just out strolling the sidewalks and enjoying visiting different businesses. There’s a lot on Main Street that people maybe don’t even realize is there.”
MacDougall said she hopes that people coming to the coffee shop may take some time to explore Main Street and check out other businesses that exist, providing a bit of a spark to the downtown area.
“I feel once people start seeing the coffee shop here and seeing all the other businesses that are here, maybe that will lead people to come down here and take some time to look around and visit,” MacDougall said. “Maybe it’ll even spark some interest from people who may want to open up a business on Main Street.”
Paying it Forward
MacDougall said she loves the idea of random acts of kindness.
It’s part of the reason she wanted to implement a “pay it forward” system at Common Grounds.
“People really thoroughly enjoy the idea of buying something for someone else,” MacDougall said. “It’s part of the idea that someone may just be having a rough day and doing something that will make their day or lift them up a little.”
She and Armstrong discussed the idea and decided to place a “pay it forward” board at the front of the shop.
The board is filled with coffee sleeves with a variety of things written on the front.
“For a veteran.”
“For a nurse.”
“For someone having a bad day.”
“For a first responder.”
“For a farmer.”
“For a foster parent.”
“For a teacher.”
The list goes on and on, each representing a coffee that was bought with someone else in mind. People can purchase a coffee for someone specific and that person can pick up the sleeve off the board to use for their coffee or if someone falls into a category like the ones mentioned above that are placed on the board, the sleeve can be for anyone that fits the mold of what’s listed.
“It can be pretty much anything,” MacDougall said. “We’ve already seen so many and a wide variety.”
“It’s just this idea of people loving on each other and loving on their community because you’re just loving on complete strangers,” Armstrong said. “You just don’t know what other people are dealing with and this is just something to show that other people are thinking about you. It’s just an awesome way, I think, for the community to show each other love.”
MacDougall said this year of all years, it’s a great way to give back.
“And with 2020 being the year of everything being taken away, what greater way to try to give back than that?”