WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Common Grounds coffee house is closing its doors, and the last day it will be open is July 14.
The co-owner, Randy Ecker, says the reason is that he and the co-owner want to put their full focus on Seventh Direction because he has seen more people die from overdoses in the last two years than ever before in his 32 years in substance counseling.
“It’s been almost traumatizing for a lot of these drug and alcohol counselors because we’re seeing so many deaths,” Ecker said.
Seventh Direction is an outpatient substance abuse treatment center that started in 2009.
“Last year and the year before, we’ve probably had over 30 people that we’ve known, not just through treatment but in the recovering community, that die due to fentanyl overdoses,” Ecker said.
In 2012, the co-owners started Common Grounds to be a place for people in recovery to gather.
“At that time, there was only like one other coffee shop in this area, and it was a coffee shop during the day in a bar at night, so it didn’t work a lot well for our clients,” Ecker said.
He wants to create more opportunities for people to get treatment.
“With some of the kids, we got kids 11, 12 years old using fentanyl, and there’s no place for him to go to treatment,” Ecker said. “I just think we need to focus on, you know, that major problem because we’re wiping out whole generations of kids, you know.”
Common Grounds has proved that its mission works. Jennifer Barnhart is a barista at Common Grounds and is in recovery.
“This place gave me hope, and it gave me encouragement,” Barnhart said. “And I formed a lot of friendships and bonds with people here. Whether we were working together or just hanging out together, this place was a recovery place for everybody to go be safe, sober, and have interaction with other sober recovering people.”
In working there, Barnhart has established relationships with family and friends.
“I didn’t know what I was gonna do,” Barnhart said. “They gave me a chance.”
Having a place to talk with others about recovery, Barnhart says, has been life-changing.
“That front porch, if it could talk, it would definitely tell all our triumphs, all our sorrows, all our in-betweens, just hanging out on that front porch,” Barnhart said. “It’s meant the world to a lot of us that who, over the years, have been here. Just talking about recovery and how we were doing to what we were going to do next in order to prepare for a better life.”
She hopes the next person will give people the same chances she was given.
“I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have this place to come to,” Barnhart said. “I was a broken human being when I walked up those stairs. And today, I have love and kindness, so if we can express that to whoever has this place next. I hope that whoever has this place has love encouraged me, and just kindness behind it.”
The house is up for sale, and Ecker says many people have expressed interest in buying the house and continuing it as a coffee shop. It is