By DEBORAH GATES
The Daily Times of Salisbury
SALISBURY, Md. (AP) — Common Grounds coffeehouse has gone mobile, bringing gourmet blends of the popular breakfast beverage to the people when they like it best.
Sandwiches, smoothies and practically everything else on the menu at the coffeehouse are also offered twice a week from a Common Grounds trailer parked downtown and along “auto mile” heading north. It meets a demand for select grab-and-go in the higher-speed consumer pockets, said Tri Townsend, the brainchild behind the restaurant on wheels.
Consumer appetites for the trailer factors into whether a permanent Common Grounds shop opens downtown, said Townsend, a partner in the independent coffeehouse that opened on Naylor Mill Road more than three years ago.
“I can park in downtown Salisbury, and at the car dealers, I arranged a schedule,” said Townsend, who runs the mobile unit. The trailer is 7 feet wide and 21 feet long, and rolled out last week for the first time. “People asked me to open a shop downtown, near the college. This is an opportunity to pull in and do market research. It’s a lot cheaper than building a place or leasing for five or six years.”
Downtown, he parks Mondays, Wednesdays and most Fridays near the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce. On Tuesdays and most Thursdays, the trailer moves along North Salisbury Boulevard between Sherwood of Salisbury and The Car Store at Naylor Mill.
Early morning hours extend into early afternoon, opening 8 a.m. downtown and 7:30 a.m. at the car stores. Townsend’s also at festivals or other events — reasons why he made the initial investment.
Coming up, Common Grounds is a sponsor at the Decorating Delmarva-Festival of Lights drive-through display for nonprofits opening in November at Delmar Speedway. The project is open several weeks, motivating Townsend to invest in a unit that separates him from the elements.
“We do a lot of outdoor events; we went with the trailer to stay dry,” he said.
The permitting process was similar to that for a restaurant, with required fees and a peddler’s license for the trailer, Townsend said. The mobile unit debuted at the Delmarva Chicken Festival, he said. Today, Common Grounds is at the Thomas Purnell Tennis Tournament at Salisbury University.
“Monday morning, I’m right back downtown,” he said.
Salisbury Mayor James Ireton, whose office at City Hall is downtown, said the presence helps showcase the region’s unique and growing collection of coffee offerings.
“We have some of the best coffee on the East Coast,” said the mayor, a coffee drinker. “If this gives people more access, that is good. It is a great opportunity for them.”
Fresh coffee and sandwiches are convenient offerings for employees and customers at north-end dealerships, said Katie Putman, an assistant at Sherwood. “A lot of times, people run down to Wawa,” she said of the convenience store several blocks north. “I drink coffee, and this is a convenience.”
The mayor said the Common Grounds project joins new downtown happenings that also include a new Italian restaurant.
“We have good offerings downtown,” he said.
Townsend calls the concept a first in the region for a local coffee shop. “The ice cream guy and snow cone guy are only in the summer,” he said. “We’re the first in the community doing this.”
Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., http://www.delmarvanow.com
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)