A Kennesaw coffee shop shuttered by the pandemic is celebrating a grand reopening in a different location this week and has been able to rehire five of its former employees, some of whom have special needs.

Independent Grounds owner Lorna Heid is a single mother of two daughters, one of whom has special needs. Her 21-year-old daughter, Emma, suffered a traumatic brain injury from meningitis as a child. Heid said her coffee shop is more than just a business, and its reopening, personal.

“My focus has always been about providing meaningful employment for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Heid said. “It’s an incredibly underemployed population of people who genuinely want to work but are often overlooked in the typical hiring process.”

Heid first opened Independent Grounds in a residential area of Kennesaw in 2018. Poor foot traffic led her to close its doors 18 months later and refocus on a new partnership that would place the shop on the campus of a Roswell church, Heid said.

But in March 2020, the first COVID state of emergency forced both Heid and the church to close their doors. As the pandemic closures continued, the church decided to end the partnership.

Heid continued to look for a new location, but opening a commercial property during the pandemic was a tall order, she said. She aimed for the community around Kennesaw State University and its students.

So Heid reached out to developers who were constructing The Bixby, a student housing development located across the street from KSU’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

She signed a lease last fall for the space at 3061 George Busbee Parkway, Suite 2000, and submitted plans for the construction. But there were more challenges, she said.

“What started as around a $150,000 buildout became a $250,000 project, and I was devastated at the prospect of not being able to push forward,” she said.

But between a GoFundMe campaign, grants and lending opportunities from the Small Business Administration and others, Heid said the overages were covered.

“Traditional lenders weren’t interested in funding what they considered a start-up,” Heid said. “But thankfully, I was able to find restaurant grants targeted for small mom-and-pop businesses impacted by the pandemic and targeted funds for women-owned businesses.”

Heid received money from the second round of the SBA’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the Barstool Sports Fund and GrubHub’s Restaurant Strong Fund.

Ahead of Thursday’s grand opening celebration, Heid said she was able to rehire five of her former employees and hopes to hire several more as the semester begins at Kennesaw State University.

“My goal is to provide meaningful employment opportunities for adults like my daughter who have special needs and to serve quality coffee in an inviting, inclusive environment that serves the greater community,” Heid said.

Independent Grounds scheduled its grand opening celebrations for 9 a.m. on Thursday, with a ribbon cutting with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and coffee tasting by Nick Bimmerle, of Smyrna’s Rev Coffee, which supplies roasted espresso and coffee beans for Independent Grounds.

Independent Grounds is located in the Bixby development near the intersection of George Busbee Parkway and Big Shanty Road. The shop is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas.

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