We reached out to social media and asked our readers, what was their favorite memory over the years at Harborside Common Grounds? Here are a few of the many answers we received. Thank you to everyone who participated.
“I would like to extend huge thank you to my amazing staff who have become family and the customers who have become our friends. The hard work and dedication of our staff and support of our customers has kept the coffee brewing for 22 wonderful years.” – Bobbi Duczak
“When I was a little girl I used to come down here with my dad all the time and get a smoothie and a cookie. Now that I got the chance to work and love in this place that’s so dear to my family. I’ve gained such a huge source of support from the people I work with and I’ve learned so much about myself, and I’m glad that I got the opportunity to work here.” – iheartautumn
(A u t u m n)
“The perfect spot for disconnecting online and the place to be for connecting with your neighbors! Being nestled along the shores of Lake Michigan made you appreciate the coffee shop that much more! It will be missed!” – xoxoemthegem (Emma Rose Widmar)
“I’ve been going there since I was probably 12. My husband and I enjoyed one of our first dates here where he fed a bird on the deck I’ll never forget. So many lovely memories of bringing our little one here throughout the years as well.” – sam.rae.kay (Samantha Kutz)
Life will never be the same without CG across the street from our office! Thank you for caffeinating our creativity, Bobbi! We’re sure going to miss you. – Dooley and Associates
“I’m going to miss one of my best friend Bobbi, love our talks and always seeing your beautiful smile! Plus those green mint mochas! Bobbi thank you for all you have done in downtown Kenosha and for always supporting me.” – Jerome Turner
“The location of the first date with the love of my life!!!!” – kayylii_alexis (Kayli Smith)
“Lots of family walks by the harbor and started or ended with coffee. Breakfast dates with my hubby we’re going to miss this place!” – bekahcfitness
“I will always be grateful for the years spent at Common Grounds, the time i spend working there, and friends that have become family, and the memories we’ve made. it’s like a big crazy family, and i know i’ll remember it always as one of the best eras of my life.” – jennaleejane (Jenna Zeihen)
“I absolutely loved the serenity it brought me while sitting with my coffee in the beautiful rooms or out on the deck! it was a perfect spot for a calm cup with friends. i’ll miss this place dearly.” – anna_holic (Kali)
“My favorite memory is meeting Ruby for the first time! Cuteness overload.” – Chris Greco
“I have so many memories of meeting friends there. Sitting on the deck, or in the store looking out to the marina. Either way, the ambiance and the vibe were always so warm and welcoming. My daughter and son-in-law had their first date there. Wishing you all the best.” – stampinsavage
Harborside Common Grounds is a time machine. By Sarah Freeborn
I walk through those doors and I’m no longer a woman in her mid-40’s, but a girl in her early 20’s. Everything is the same as it was when I walked through the doors for the first time on that late summer opening day in 2000. The mismatched tables, the variety of different chairs around them, the different shaped lamps on each table, antiques on shelves, the smell of the place, the squeak of the old wood floors, the art on the wall from Lemon Street Gallery, and of course, the owner, Bobbi, a constant fixture sitting at her table chatting with patrons or jumping up to lend a hand making a sandwich when needed.
In this space is where I learned things like how to play rummy and who Kierkegaard was. I filled journal after journal at these tables, helping to wear a path in the floor from the tables to the coffee pots for endless refills of coffee with names like Highlander Grog, Drunken Uncle, Butt Naked, and Heavenly Hazelnut. I had my first bowl of Stuffed Pepper Soup here, learned that Oregon Chai was my favorite chai, discovered focaccia, and that Sheboygan brats really were worthy of being called the Nation’s Best.
In that little window of time between when the internet was gaining prominence, but cell phones weren’t what they are now, Common Grounds was the gathering place. It didn’t matter what day of the week it was, you could head down there any evening or afternoon and run into friends. If none were there when you got there, you didn’t need to wait long until a few walked in. It was a place of community where we’d all spend hours upon hours laughing, having deep conversations, meeting new people, playing games, waxing poetic. We’d all come home from work and then leave our tiny apartments or parents houses and meet at this little oasis of a coffee shop on the harbor to be kids again, to be free for a few hours from the impending “adulthood” that was right outside the doors.
Those days sound like early Coldplay and John Mayer, smell like Nag Champa (the blue box) and Lemongrass incense, and feel like a warm comforting sweater wrapped around your shoulders on a cold rainy day. They were formative years as we dreamed of what our lives would be and talked of who we wanted to become. As I sat at those tables filling journal after journal, I dreamed of a day I would write books. Little did I know that 20 years later I would write and publish my first.
As it does, life moved on, and as people began pairing up, marrying off, and having children, Common Grounds wasn’t so constant in our lives anymore. We’d still meet up there from time to time, meet each other’s kids, introduce each other to spouses or significant others, but it had changed, we had changed. As we grew, going out for hours after work, or spending an entire weekend in a coffee shop became less appealing as we began creating our own spaces in our homes. The invention of cell phones eliminated the need to go out to find people, you always knew where they were with a simple text. Culture was changing, and we were becoming adults.
When they close for the last time at the end of the month, it’s not so much that we’ll be losing a place we often go to these days, but that we won’t ever again be able to walk through those doors and be transported back to when life was a little easier, a little freer. When those doors close August 31st, it’s not just that they’re closing on a coffee shop, but they’re closing on an entire chapter of our lives.
We may not be able to go sit in Common Grounds anymore, but now instead Common Grounds sits within us. It’s become a part of us, our stories, who we are. And in that sense, it will live on forever in the stories of our lives.
Thank you for the memories, the endless refills, and all the laughs. Bobbi, what you built will live on with us, and we are so thankful for it.
Concept for this piece by Donny Stancato & Jason Hedman
Photos by Donny Stancato AKA “Jerome Turner”
Edited by Jason Hedman
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(This article first appeared in the Fall 2022 Downtown Kenosha Magazine)