Home Grown: Downtown Grounds

Brooke Szczsniak went to work for Downtown Grounds nearly 10 years ago; now she owns the streetside coffee shop on Medford's Central Avenue.Bob Pennell

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? We make coffee. I have owned the shop for 31/2 years and worked for the previous owner, Nikki Toney, beginning in 2003. I bought the shop from her in April 2009.

Business card

Business: Downtown Grounds

Owner: Brooke Szczsniak

Address: 38 N. Central Ave., Suite 106

Phone: 541-245-9355

Employees: Four

Email: dwntwngrnds@gmail.com

Website: www.dwntwngrnds.com

Facebook: Downtown Grounds

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I've lived in the Rogue Valley since 1990. We moved up here from the San Jose, Calif., area. I was 8 at the time.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? My brother worked for Nikki originally. I had always thought coffee sounded like a fun thing and when there was an opening he told me about it. He was a good employee and that was a bonus for me, and I was hired in August 2003. I became the manager after a year or a year-and-a-half. Then, when Nikki was getting ready to sell, I thought I should look around and do something a little more serious. I was looking around, trying to decide what else to do, but this seemed like a good opportunity. I'm good at it, and I already knew the business so it wasn't intimidating; it was just the natural flow of things.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? I would make sure I had a bigger savings cushion. I ended up using my credit card a lot. If I had to do it over, I would not have done it that way.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? I had to fire an employee once and that was pretty brutal. I don't like having to do that. It started out good, and slowly it got to the point where they weren't doing their job. I've been pretty fortunate in making hires; I'm pretty careful about it, and never had a bad experience other than that one.

Who are your competitors? I would say any of the independent coffee shops where they don't have multiple locations or a drive-thru. There used to be more like that. There used to be one across the street. We have indoor and outdoor seating, so we are more like Melello's or Oregon Mountain, but we don't roast our own beans.

What are your goals? I would like to eventually expand with more seating area and have live music and open mics. Right now we don't have the space to do that. Eventually, I'd like to turn it into a cool place at night rather than the 7-to-5 shop we are now, but we need more physical space. ... With the Medford Commons coming there will be more people walking around the area and that will help. But there is a side effect of having less parking. We actually had a lot of customers after the Lithia building went up, but now we're seeing new faces.

What training or education did you need? I didn't know anything about coffee when I first started in 2003. I learned how to do the books working for my parents — they owned Brookie's Cookies in Central Point. Other than that, it was all on-the-job training and researching on the Internet. I took one business class at Rogue Community College.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Make sure you love what you think you want to do. There are days when it's really hard and if I didn't love what I do, I'd quit. Don't do something because you think it's a good idea; do it because you're passionate about it.

To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.



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