Just a few days before opening, Tom Giesken’s eyes scanned the room surveying the last few things on his to-do list.
“You know… this was placed on my heart 30 years ago,” he said with emotion, referring to Well Grounded Café, a new coffee shop he opened with his wife, Patty, June 1 in downtown Ottawa.
“I was 28 years old working in the factory at Louisiana-Pacific and I wanted a different life,” he said. Tom’s older brother had a successful career in sales and began helping him practice role playing, interviewing and networking to prepare for a career change. He asked Tom to make a list of the things he wanted to achieve in his lifetime and to wake up every day, read the list, and focus on behaviors that would help turn those goals into reality.
“I still have that paper, and a coffee shop is on that list,” he said.
Originally, Tom envisioned a Christian book store with a small coffee shop. I remember some of our earliest conversations about buildings, would this one work, would that one work? Tom looked at a lot of buildings, but never found “the one” until the day he was walking on Ottawa’s East Main Street in the fall of 2019. He was looking at a property for sale on East Main Street, but realized a drive-thru would be impossible at that location. He removed that building from his list of possibilities, but continued thinking about that area. He liked the visibility and the fact that the East Main Street and SR 65 intersection has the highest traffic volume in Putnam County.
“One day I just walked into to the carry out and asked Bob Langhals if he’d sell me his building. He said yes.”
That was in late 2019. Tom and Patty received the keys March 17, 2020 and began working to revitalize the building the same day. During the development process there were considerations of whether to renovate the 1950’s building, or tear it down and construct a new building at the site. In the end, they chose revitalization. “There’s a lot of history here and the way they built the building, it’s built to last,” Tom said.
During their 14 month development project, they’ve relied on an architect, engineers, and more than a dozen contractors, skilled laborers, vendors and suppliers to bring the building
up to code. The huge windows, soft lighting, wood tables, patio seating and side room filled with couches and lounge chairs create a truly inviting space. Sliding doors on the south side of the building make it possible to close a section of the coffee shop for private meetings or events.
In addition to the fiscal investments made to the building and property, Well Grounded has also created 16 new jobs, including one operations manager and 15 baristas.
Well Grounded Café is about more than coffee to the Giesken’s. “We want this to be a place that creates connections between people in an environment where they feel welcome and loved.”
The owners and staff of Well Grounded will host a ribbon cutting ceremony today at 11:00 a.m. hosted by the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce.