Whitney Craig | Communications Specialist

ADEC’s Middlebury Gaining Grounds location celebrates its two year anniversary this weekend. In honor of this occasion, the staff are whipping up special birthday cake frappes today (Friday) and running an ongoing 25 cent pop special, reminiscent of the old days.

Even after two years, Gaining Grounds sees a 50-50 split of old and new customers on any given day, but it has a dedicated base of regulars who are beginning to develop relationships with the staff.

“We have more people that sit here and interact with clients,” Tena Bowser, Team Manager at Middlebury shared. “The bank tellers next door come over and bring birthday cookies for clients. The community is getting to know them on a personal level, and the clients are learning to respect personal space.”

Tena played a key role in bringing Gaining Grounds to Middlebury. She developed the Goshen location with Steve Germani, Koleen Linker, Toni Richards and Don Wierenga.

When the recession hit in 2008, the five of them put their heads together to find a new avenue for employment and community integration. Several ideas came up, but the coffee shop continually seemed less complicated and friendlier. ADEC opened the first Gaining Grounds location at the Shoots in Goshen on May 5, 2009.

Tena enjoyed working with Gaining Grounds and felt that she had found her ADEC niche. When Middlebury Day entered development, she was asked to come on as Team Manager. While considering the offer, she toured the building and found it was the ideal blank slate for a coffee shop. She accepted the job offer with one stipulation—open a Gaining Grounds in Middlebury.

ADEC was awarded a $20,000 grant from the Elkhart County Community Foundation to renovate the building, buy equipment and meet health regulations. Due to the new construction, the location received licenses that allow for complicated drinks.

The expanded menu and location led to Middlebury becoming a training facility for clients interested in the coffee shop process. This allows for Tena and her staff to teach consistency and safety.

Kayla Simmons serves as the barista, and a client, Matt, as the assistant staff member. He wipes down tables, restocks supplies and is tall enough to refill the ice machine. Tena steps in and acts as barista when needed. The three of them keep the shop running smooth and build up community connections.

The most popular drinks at Gaining Grounds for the general public are Frappes. The clients prefer coffees and sweet drinks, and Tena loves her Iced Chai. Everyone agrees The Refinery roasted coffee and Big Train drink mixes set a high standard of quality.

“Anytime anyone comes in and says it’s better than Starbucks, it’s a good day!” Tena laughed. “And we are better.”