By Jon Platt
Blake Batson, owner of Common Grounds, has a new trick up his sleeve to grow his business in the Waco community.
Batson, along with his team, plan to open an organic creamery, named Heritage Creamery, next door to Common Grounds at 1123 Eighth St.
Following his graduation from Baylor in 2008 with a degree in philosophy, Batson bought the local coffee shop and took it to new heights.
His additions to the coffee shop – an extension of the shop’s menu, expanding the lot’s entertainment venue and a food truck-style store in downtown Waco, called The Container – furthered him along the path to his current venture.
“We wanted to do something in that location to add value to Common Grounds, to add value to the whole property,” he said. “The first thought was doing a restaurant, and that instantly scared me … I didn’t really want to go fully into food, yet. So we’re thinking, ‘What is similar to coffee with similar margins, similar shelf life?’ Because we already get coffee. And this idea of doing homemade, locally sourced ice cream came up.”
Initially, Batson and his team planned for an opening in April 2015, but with recent setbacks in renovation he said a soft open is possible for mid-summer, with an official grand opening in the fall.
However, opening in the spring would be ideal, Batson said.
Josh Kulak, general manager of Common Grounds, said being a part of Common Grounds at such a critical junction for the brand keeps him coming into work each day.
With the addition of The Container, which he helped get off the ground, Kulak said the coffee shop’s customer base is growing, especially since the mobile shop can be moved to big events.
“With the holidays, we’ve been moving it around a lot more,” he said. “People want us at everything.”
Kulak said The Container would be set up next to ESPN’s GameDay perch Friday evening and Saturday morning and in Brazos Parking during the game.
Kyler Griffith, who works in Common Grounds’ Container, said he expects this weekend’s events to bring in a lot of customers for the mobile unit.
Griffith staffed the trailer at the opening of Waco’s recently renovated Hippodrome and several events for Antioch Community Church since. But he predicts nothing will compare to the size and scope of customers on Saturday.
While The Container feeds the traditional brick-and-mortar location and vice versa, Heritage Creamery will only be connected to Common Grounds by their shared driveway and a common business owner, Kulak said. Batson said he agreed. Even in concerns of layout and design, Batson said he did not see the creamery as a mere extension of Common Grounds. He said the plan is to make Heritage more clean and less eclectic looking than his coffee shop.
However, Batson said he hopes customers will enjoy both atmosphere interchangeably.
“It will be like an overflow space for Common Grounds,” he said. “My vision, and kind of what I see for the whole place, is: come get your coffee, come over and sit on the back patio behind the creamery and then eat a breakfast taco from the food truck. I want there to be a very complementary synergy.”
Furthering his business is deeply personal work for him, Batson said, because he sees it as his calling. The ice cream shop’s name came was also a personal decision of Batson’s.
“We’ll be working with local farms to bring in produce for the ice cream making,” Batson said. “So the idea heritage – the heritage of Waco – was the thought behind it.”