In 1989, Grounds for Thought was founded by the Wicks family. In 1991, Kelly and Laura Wicks became co-owners of the establishment, running the store by themselves for many years.
“For the longest time, it was Laura and I. One of us would get up and open the shop and about halfway through the day we would switch,” Kelly said. “The other person would take care of the kids.”
The early years of the store were trying and the Wicks’ experienced long hours and low pay, Kelly said, but their communication and work ethic made it especially rewarding.
The store ran by these two in the '90s was small in comparison to what it eventually became. In the beginning, it was only the front section of the store, with the counter and various shelves, totaling around 1,000 sq. ft.
“We were really a small coffee shop, with seating for nine people and a few thousand books,” Kelly said.
Today, the store has more than doubled in size, expanding four times over the last 30 years. Along with this expansion came thousands of books with bookshelves, multiple tables with extra seating and more employees to staff, including their children.
Other additions to the store included the first public free access terminal in Bowling Green, attracting all sorts of customers to use the internet and explore the store. They also created their own record label, releasing five albums in the last 10 years.
One of their most game-changing additions came early in the business’ lifespan, when they purchased another building on North Main Street to roast their own coffee. The head roaster, Dave Breen, ensures that Grounds receives the high-quality roasted coffee beans that have made their standard. Roasting their own coffee has also cut down on transportation costs and kept everything closer to home.
Staying true to their roots has cemented Grounds for Thought as a staple of the community. Local and regional artists perform here, bringing in customers to experience everything Grounds has to offer. They also bring in politicians, authors and other public figures to their stage. Notable names include Noam Chomsky, Sherrod Brown, Ted Strickland and Talking Heads.
An appreciation for the arts is something that has always been at the core of Grounds, and as the landscape of arts has changed, they have encompassed more of it on their bookshelves and walls.
With the rebirth of vinyl, Kelly has noticed people of all ages purchasing records, and Grounds has become an important stop among Bowling Green’s vinyl enthusiasts.
This relationship with music and also local artists has led to Grounds being awarded the Arts and Business Partnership Award from the Americans for the Arts organization, which they will be receiving in New York City on Oct. 3.
They haven’t let it go to their head though.
“One of the things Grounds has always tried to do is never rest on our awards,” Kelly said. “We’ve been grateful for the awards that we’ve received. But, that just makes us work harder to make sure we don’t sit back and as we head into our next 30 years as a business that we continue to push ourselves.”
With the national acclaim they’ve received over the years, they attribute their success to the community that supports them. They’ve seen all sorts of customers over the years, many of them regulars who live in the city.
Grounds supports the community just as much as the community supports them, welcoming everyone, Kelly said. “One of the things Grounds is always proud of is making this a place where everyone can feel welcome.”