Home Graphic designer Common Grounds owner aims to have a place of inspiration and community

Common Grounds owner aims to have a place of inspiration and community


Kyra Johnson

Jeff Foster is the owner of Common Grounds in Sycamore in a bid to make it a ‘safe space’ (Kyra Johnson | Northern Star)

DeKalb County is home to very few black-owned businesses. One of them is Common Grounds: Coffee, Tea, and Smoothies, 2180 Oakland Drive Unit B in Sycamore.

Owner Jeff Foster reopened in July 2016 and created a space with a vision for everyone to be inspired by. Common Grounds moved the stores to a space more suited to its business. As this local cafe has grown and evolved, Foster said his space has become a place where art and community inspire everything he does. On his travels as a graphic designer, Foster’s inspiration for having more conversations about current issues facing us in the world were conversations that took place over coffee and tea.

“I went to a series of workshops and conferences on the topic of human trafficking,” Foster said. “I also visited India when I was working as a graphic designer. And so I learned a lot about this part of the world and the Indians who make a lot of the products that we’re talking about.

The various coffees available at Common Grounds include lattes, espressos, mochas and more, all hand-brewed and made by Foster himself. One can find a variety of drink options and vegan and vegetarian dishes on the menu. Items range from $5 to $18. Curbside pickup is also available at Common Grounds.

Foster was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. Growing up, Foster had a love for and exhibited her passion for art, books, and music through her cafe experience. As he shares his goal of creating a sense of community among visitors.

“We were never just a place to grab a cup of coffee and go,” Foster said.

Foster almost became a full-time minister before becoming the owner of Common Grounds. He has worked in Chicago with youth programs at the Cabrini-Green Housing Projects and various churches in the Chicagoland area. Feeling marginalized in his youth had led Foster to want to give young people the opportunity to aspire and dream.

Common Grounds welcomes college-age individuals, especially those who resonate with the difficult transitions between high school and college life. His shop is a place where students come to be inspired, network and grow as individuals. Common Grounds is the perfect study location for students looking for that balance of socializing and studying.

“We need transparency in the world,” Foster said. Foster wants to create a safe space for students to feel safe regardless of race, religion, spirituality, sexual orientation, socio-economic status and more.

Events that have been hosted by Common Grounds in the past include musical performances, paint and sip, coffee talks, poetry nights and more. Common Grounds is open to hosting student organizations for community and college events such as quiz nights and games, workshops, and panels.

Sydney Williams, also known as Chakra Da Kyd, is a senior at NIU as part of Four Poets, One Mic, a poetry collective organization. The organization has worked with Common Grounds before and would like to work with the company again. Williams said Four Poets, One Mic is “more than willing to collaborate with Common Grounds again” in the near future.

Common Grounds Coffee is hosting Paint & Sip with a Book every Monday night starting at 4 p.m., according to a post on the company’s Instagram. Every Monday, a new theme is offered and shop supplies can be borrowed at any time.

Those interested can follow Common Grounds on social media at @commongroundstribe to keep up to date with all the latest events, new menu items and opening hours. For more information, do not hesitate to consult their website or call 815-570-3379.