More than a one-stop coffeehouse: Common Ground (CoGro)

From proposals to top secret bagels, Common Ground (CoGro) is a big part of typical campus life for many students at Queen's.

Five different people wave to Camilla James, head manager of CoGro, as she arrives to The Brew, an offshoot of CoGro located in the JDUC. Camilla waves back with a big smile.

Here’s everything we all have been wondering about CoGro:

What is the biggest challenge running CoGro?
James: Honestly, we have 130 staff members and I want to make sure everyone feels fulfilled, included and like they’re performing well in the work place. I want them to feel like they are part of something positive.

This is a challenge as I think about it all the time.

What changes have made CoGro the student service what it is today?
James: The biggest changes have been working towards increasing efficiency and providing products that students want. Every year we look at what works, and we build off of that.

What does this process look like?
James: For example, we added a prep team.

We also ended the ham-apple-cheddar. At first people were surprised. Maybe some were unhappy. But it has been a really positive change for us to transform it into a turkey-apple-cheddar. This change makes the food more accessible to more people. People are also getting these turkey-apple-cheddars at a faster rate and this is making the line move quicker.

Ellen DeGeneres comes into CoGro. You have one chance to show off the best CoGro has to offer. What do you serve?
James: I would have to say Top-Secret Bagel. I know it’s the classic answer, but it really is the most unique product at CoGro. You can’t find it anywhere else.

What local ingredients do you use at CoGro?
James: The most unique products at CoGro are the local ones.

Most importantly, Card’s Bakery downtown provides us with all of our baked goods – every single one. It has been awesome working with them. They have really looked into our needs.

Also, our cream cheese is made by a woman named Maria! She brings it to us a couple times a week and hand mixes it.

What is the best CoGro advertisement this year?
My favorite is the Treat Yourself Campaign that we did around Valentine’s Day. The only visual image associated with it has one of our staff, Ben, giving a cookie to a tree.

I really like that idea because it enabled us to reach out to anybody.

Is there anything you didn’t expect but you learned about CoGro?
James: What surprised me was how much time you spend together. You can become so close-knit and tight with a group of people that you had no idea existed before.

If you had to narrow your love for CoGro to one aspect what would you say?
James: Red velvet cake

Would you want to be proposed to at CoGro?
James: No! Haha! I do love Cogro though.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

[View the story "More than a one-stop coffeehouse: Common Ground Coffehouse (CoGro)" on Storify]

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