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Coffee shop phenomenon spreads from Brazil to Waco

Jan. 28, 1997

Matthew Lester/The Baylor Lariat

Stuart Thompson, a speech communication sophomore from Edmond, Okla., spends the afternoon studying at Common Grounds.

By Kelly Maher

Lariat Reporter

The coffee business has traveled all the way from Brazil, up to the Pacific Northwest and now it has finally landed in Waco. In the past year, the area around campus has seen a boom in coffeehouse population. The number of shops in the area has risen from one to four in just over a year.

Common Grounds, the first near campus, opened in January 1995. Jill Mashburn, founder and owner, felt like there was a need for a neutral, non-alcoholic place for students, faculty, and other members of the community to meet. Mashburn really began to put her idea into action after her parents came to campus to visit her as a student, and she realized there was not a good place for her and her parents to just sit and talk, especially because her father was not even allowed into her dorm room. During her senior year, she got the ball rolling.

'I felt that if I didn't start something now then someone else would,' Mashburn said.

Mashburn traveled to Seattle during the summer to better learn the business. 'I was able to use what I learned in Seattle to set up my own shop with its own ambiance and product,' Mashburn said.

Common Grounds went without any similar competition until August 1996 when the coffeehouse boom began. The Starving Artist Coffehouse opened as the second shop near campus.

'I thought about doing this for five or six years, and when my daughter started at Baylor the idea really metamorphosized,' said Gerard Schank, manager and owner of The Starving Artist Coffehouse.

In addition to coffee, The Starving Artist offers a broad lunch and dinner menu including four or five different fish and meat choices. Like The Starving Artist, many other shops serve food. According to Heather Nay, assistant manager at the Grind 'N Stone, they offer a variety of lunches for under $4.

Each coffeehouse seems to serve its own niche in the community. Common Grounds, The Starving Artist and the Grind 'N Stone cater to the campus crowd while Barry's Coffee Co. serves a large number of people in the downtown business community during the day.

'I think that in most incidences competition can be good if the market is primed,' Mashburn said when asked about the impact of the new competition in the area. 'It creates an awareness about the industry, and curiosity will bring in customers.'

Dan Kelley, manager and owner of Barry's Coffee Co. felt his shop was still in a unique niche within the local competition.

'I don't consider Barry's to be really part of the competition because it is physically removed from the campus.'

Several students also commented on what they thought about the increase in coffeehouses in the area.

'I think that since now there's so many coffeehouses, it may be hurting some of the shops' business,' said Marla Kennedy, an Irving sophomore. 'When I walk into one of the many coffeehouses around campus, instead of being greeted by a crowd of students, often the only other people there are the employees.'

Other opinions differed.

'With the increase in the number of coffeehouses it gives the students a variety of atmospheres to choose from,' Ben Law, an Aubrey senior, said.

Each coffeehouse is unique and offers students broad ranges of ambiance, music, food and camaraderie. Coffeehouses have become a staple around campus and will most likely remain that way for years to come.

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