MiddleGround Replacement to Shift Focus from Food to Coffee

Mark and Dave Forman, the owners of Wiggin Street Coffee. (Courtesy of Dave Forman)

Earlier today, we brought you the news that MiddleGround Cafe, with its hummus plates and generous late hours, will be shutting down to be replaced by Wiggin Street Coffee. This new establishment will focus more on coffee and serve a much more limited menu than its predecessor, according to Dave Forman, who owns the business along with his father, Mark.

“You either need to be focused on coffee or you need to be focused on food,” he said.

Instead of serving the hot breakfast that was a MiddleGround Sunday staple, Wiggin Street Coffee will feature a menu of bagels and pastries. They will also serve a selection of sandwiches. The food menu at the River Road Coffee House in Granville, Ohio which is owned by the Formans, offers such items as stuffed croissants and tuna salad sandwiches.

Though the menu will shrink, Joel and Margaret Gunderson (who we’ve reached out to), who own MiddleGround and the Village Inn, will be reopening the VI for lunch and offer both an eat-in and a take-out menu, according to Forman. MiddleGround’s closing message indicated that many popular MiddleGround items will make an appearance at the VI.

Wiggin Street Coffee will offer coffee from the Formans’ other business, One Line Coffee, which focuses on sourcing sustainable and ethical beans from small farms. Just a few weeks ago, Dave Forman was in El Salvador, meeting with one of his new suppliers. He said that this rigorous vetting process allows One Line to make sure they are buying from farms that use sustainable practices and follow ethical wage policies.

“The idea is to give a lot more credit to the people who are growing our coffee than to us,” he said.

Below the jump: how the deal came to fruition and will Wiggin Street Coffee serve milkshakes?

The new store will not serve milkshakes, opting instead to introduce a new selection of frozen coffee drinks that can also be served without coffee. They will also have fruit smoothies.

Hours for Wiggin Street Coffee have yet to be determined, but Dave Forman told us that they plan to keep MiddleGround’s layout because they were particularly attracted to the coffee shop’s status as a campus gathering place.

The Formans are currently reaching out to students who worked for MiddleGround last year, Dave said, to see if they would be interested in working at Wiggin Street Coffee.

“It’s important that we don’t make anyone feel like we’re coming in and kicking them out,” he said.

Dave Forman said that the Gundersons approached him and his father about a year ago, saying that they wanted to sell MiddleGround and focus their efforts on the Village Inn. At the time, the Formans said they were unable to take on another business. A few months ago, Dave said, they were approached again and decided that they could devote the necessary time to opening a new store. Because the VI will be expanding its food offers, Dave said, he and his father felt they could safely open a more coffee-focused business in Gambier.

“This time, Mark and I decided that we were in a situation where we could do something that’s really cool and that the students and the residents of Gambier will really enjoy,” he said.

He hopes the coffee bar will appeal to Kenyon students with an interest in sustainable food and beverage options, which he said has always been the driving force of the Formans’ business.

“Our goal is always to be proud of our actions,” he said. “Almost every business decision we’ve made over the last nine years has been less about money and more about being proud of what we do.”

45 responses

  1. Maybe this is just a purely emotion reaction, but this new menu looks disappointing.

    Also, there’s something fishy about them saying you have to focus on coffee or food. In reality, coffee shops migrate to food production because it’s virtually impossible to run a successful business on coffee alone while maintaining reasonable prices.

  2. Poor choice by the VI owners. Middle Ground was much more than a cafe–it was a student employer, a meeting place, an option for dinner, and an all purpose study space. The VI will not be all of these things. Personally, I’m a little annoyed that there are now 2 non-Peirce dining options in Gambier (yes, I am not counting the Cove). While it is understandable that they want to spend more time on the VI, I think it’s a decision they’ll come to regret. Nothing will replace a grilled cheese with avocado at 10:30 before you begin the final push on a paper.

    • While I agree that the Vi cannot fill the shoes of the MG as a meeting places and etc, for a town the size of Gambier, it’s pretty impressive that there’s two dining options other than Pierce. You want more? Get a car, go to Mount Vernon. Not to turn this update about Middle Ground into an argument about Pierce, but keep in mind how much money you spend to eat there and how much you waste when you don’t.
      Adaptability, friends. Mop up your tears and learn to survive.

      • Amen. Thank you. Sometimes it seems people don’t realize how good we actually have it.

      • Last time I checked, “getting a car” was far more expensive than a $6 sandwich.

  3. I’m not sure why people are complaining — a real coffee shop sounds wonderful! Sure, it will be different from what Kenyon students are used to, but to me, it seems like a nice change. I’m looking forward to reading Thrill updates on the shop while I’m abroad.

  4. “Almost every business decision we’ve made over the last nine years has been less about money and more about being proud of what we do.”

    Repeated here for the benefit of the Kenyon administration.

  5. A “REAL” coffee shop? Give me a break, Middleground was more than that. Let me mourn the death of this institution that was a source of stability and comfort at my Kenyon home.

  6. this is a little sad but i think that the new coffee shop will be fine. we are going to be fine. stop being whiney babies.

  7. Middle Ground was great. Nothing better for a Sunday morning hangover than the genuinely tasty food and good atmosphere. We’ll all mourn it. But I’m gonna be honest, the coffee was not that great, and the atmosphere sounds like it will stay the same. I’m exciting for the change!! And (hopefully) some quality coffee in Gambier!

      • And I’m sure your job foots all of your tuition, room, and board, AND your completely unnecessary out-of-Peirce food costs.

        Middle Ground has always been a pretty elitist place where the rich kids who are too good for Peirce food go. Along with the overpriced Deli.

      • Last time I checked, Peirce didn’t serve coffee at 11 PM. In fact it wasn’t open at all!
        Why do you have your knickers in a twist over other people’s financial habits when they don’t affect you in the slightest?
        Choosing to purchase an occasional snack does not make someone elitist. Thinking you’re better than someone else does.
        More importantly, as everyone else has noted: MILKSHAKES.

  8. Please PLEASE please make this new place into the cozy, rockin’, coffee shop it had so much potential to be as Middle Ground. I could never get over the stagnant and cold set up of that space. Get more couches and rugs and reading lights! If this is really going to be about coffee, then take the project to the next level and make the environment more like a real coffee shop. I’m excited to see what comes of this change. Middle Ground needed some rejuvenating!


  10. Just to keep things in perspective:
    MiddleGround was open for 8 years, Kenyon maintenance has a “combined service of 435 years” to the college.

    • Yes, thank you for that point! maybe Middle Ground was always part of our Kenyon experience, but it was only open 8 years – a fairly long time in the restaurant business, but not that long in Kenyon history. it could be a good change! besides, it sounds like the Formans are making an effort to reach out to former MG employees and the larger Kenyon community.

    • I feel this comment is uncalled for. Yes, the Sodexo debacle is far more devastating, and far more important, than Middle Ground closing. But this isn’t a post about Sodexo. There are several of those on this blog, and from what the editors are saying, there will be more to come. There are petitions circulating, e-mails being sent– a lot is happening.

      But this is a post about Middle Ground. And while I can’t imagine anyone would claim that Middle Ground closing is more important than the Sodexo issue, I think that this student body should be allowed its private sadness at the loss of a true institution on campus. Even though the news of these issues has been announced at the same time, they are different issues, and I don’t think reacting to the loss of Middle Ground is detracting from treating Sodexo with importance.

      Just let us have our private grievance. Chai milkshakes and chicken strips– you will be missed.

      • If a “private grievance” is what you want, go for it. Students just seem to be speaking out less about Sodexo and more about this.

        I do you hope you recover quickly from your “private sadness” and are able to get on with your life.

      • I mean by the idea that you can have a decent frozen coffee drink without the coffee. Seriously, what could it be? Caramel shaved ice?

  11. So we’re going back to the Red Door Cafe without a Red Door?

    Fantastic. Suck it current alums… My baby has come home :'(.

  12. I do question if there is enough of a market for a coffee-oriented shop in Gambier. My experience as a student tells me there is not. I hope they reconsider offering hot breakfast.

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