Artwork covers the walls at Common Grounds, including a neon pink “Up All Night on Adderall” sign, sketches of City Hall and the Philadelphia Eagles, and street signs reading “Diamond” and “Cecil B.”
In early 2018, Shawn Bullard and Stephen Yaeger envisioned building a coffee house that would serve as a popular meeting space for Temple University students and North Philadelphia residents.
They opened Common Grounds, a cafe and lounge on the corner of Cecil B. Moore Avenue and 16th Street, last month.
“It’s been amazing so far,” said Bullard, a 2005 sports recreation and facilities management alumnus and former outside linebacker for the San Diego Chargers. “I saw [that] the day I was able to bring that to Temple University and North Philadelphia, I was going to do it.”
Yaeger, a restaurant consultant, said he’s “excited to work with the neighbors and the school.”
The team’s community-focused approach drives their business partnerships and practices. The two partnered with ReAnimator Coffee Roasters, which has four locations throughout Philadelphia.
“They’re big on the neighborhood and Philadelphia and a lot of our views lined up,” Yaeger said.
Yaeger and Bullard also wanted to make their business sustainable for the environment. Common Grounds only uses biodegradable materials and locally-sourced produce. Yaeger said this reflects the shop’s commitment to “being with everybody and being sustainable.”
Misfits Market supplies Common Grounds’ produce. The North Philadelphia farm-to-front door organization supplies blemished fruits and vegetables to its customers.
In an effort to eliminate global waste, the organization uses produce that grocery stores typically deem “unattractive,” but are still edible and healthy.
“They don’t [normally] work with restaurants and I pleaded with them that this is our culture, this is our mission,” Yaeger said. “We are the only company that works with them now.”
Common Grounds also has a “Joe for Bros” program, which allows customers to purchase a coffee ahead of time for someone in need.
The counter in the front of the house looks out onto Cecil B. Moore Avenue, with a downstairs lounge area featuring a studying nook, complete with a TV and fireplace.
In addition to coffee, Common Grounds’ menu includes foods like pumpkin waffles, rainbow bagels, avocado toast and different flavors of mac and cheese.
Since opening, the cafe has attracted customers from across the city.
West Philadelphia resident Catherine Westerduin said she visited the shop to check out the atmosphere during its first week and enjoyed her time there. In fact, she went every day during the first week.
“[It has] good vibes, good coffee and good people,” said Westerduin, a University of Pennsylvania graduate social work student.
For Bullard, the coffee shop’s proximity to the university made the project a personal endeavor.
“I was getting tired and frustrated with seeing University of Pennsylvania have all these high-end restaurants and cafes and everybody just overlooking Temple University,” he said. “Like [the] Temple student body can’t enjoy it, or doesn’t deserve it, or doesn’t have the economic [resources] to spend.”
Bullard said Common Grounds is important because the founders care about the surrounding community. He added other developers often come into the neighborhood just to make a profit.
Bullard and Yaeger keep the cafe door open when weather permits to achieve their vision of connecting the community and students.
“I believe in Temple University and I believe in the student body,” Bullard said. “I bleed and live Temple University.”