Independent Grounds has a new location in Kennesaw! Stop by and see those familiar faces (employees), many of whom are adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Independent Grounds is the brainchild of Lorna Heid, a single mother of two daughters, one of whom has special needs. So reopening the coffee shop in a new location after being forced to close during the pandemic is personal to her beyond just business.
“My focus has always been about providing meaningful employment for adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities,” Heid said. “It’s an incredibly underemployed population of people who genuinely want to work but are often overlooked in the typical hiring process.”
Heid opened her first Independent Grounds location in a residential part of Kennesaw in 2018. Poor foot traffic led her to close its doors 18 months later and Heid refocused on a new partnership with a Roswell church that wanted a community coffee shop on their campus. Then in March 2020, the first COVID state of emergency hit and the state of Georgia mostly shut down. Heid and the church closed their doors and with as the uncertainty of the pandemic lingered, the church decided to terminate their partnership.
Undaunted, Heid started looking for a new location. But opening a commercial property in the middle of a pandemic was far from ideal.
“I knew the concept was good but we needed a location in the heart of Kennesaw, ideally with easy access to the Kennesaw State University staff and students,” Heid said.
The Bixby, a student housing development located across the street from Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University, was under construction and Heid began reaching out to the developer regarding the available retail space.
Last fall, a lease was signed for 3061 George Busbee Parkway, Suite 2000, in
Kennesaw and plans submitted for a buildout just as construction prices began to soar.
“What started as around a $150,000 buildout became a $250,000 project and I was devastated at the prospect of not being able to push forward,” said Heid.
A GoFundMe campaign was started and Heid went to work researching grants and lending opportunities from the Small Business Administration and others to cover the overages.
“Traditional lenders weren’t interested in funding what they considered a start-up,” Heid said. “But thankfully, I was able to find restaurant grants targeted for small mom-and-pop businesses impacted by the pandemic and targeted funds for women-owned businesses.”
Heid was able to secure a 2nd Round PPP loan and grants from the SBA’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the Barstool Sports Fund and GrubHub’s Restaurant Strong Fund.
“We couldn’t have done it without the grants from people like Greg Hill and Dave Portnoy who saw a need and jumped in to help out small restaurants that weren’t able to access the funding they needed to stay afloat,” Heid said.
Heid has been able to rehire 5 of her former employees and hopes to hire on several more as the school semester begins this Fall at Kennesaw State University.
“My goal is to provide meaningful employment opportunities for adults like my daughter who have special needs,” said Heid. “And to serve quality coffee in an inviting, inclusive environment that serves the greater community.”
Independent Grounds is located in the Bixby development near the intersection of George Busbee Parkway and Big Shanty Road. It is across the street from Fifth Third Bank’s Kennesaw State University Stadium. The coffee shop will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
3061 George Busbee Parkway, Suite 2000
Kennesaw, GA 30144