If you’ve heard of coconut milk barista-style creamer, grass-fed yogurt or raw chocolate that’s organic, vegan, gluten free, soy-free and low-glycemic, you’ve likely visited Common Ground Grocery.
For the rest of the health- and environmentally-conscious, a virtual visit to the Bloomington, Illinois market is in order.
Common Ground Grocery opened in 1977 offering as many organic and locally grown items available. There wasn’t much at the time, but there was a need.
Katha Koenes, who worked for the market for eight years before purchasing it in 2000, says the number of suppliers has grown considerably.
“While ‘buying local’ and organic products aren't really new ideas for us, I'm happy there is more of an awareness in the public and glad we can serve our community by supplying harder-to-find, high-quality products,” Koenes says.
Today, the quaint store that’s become a community staple is devoted to promoting the connection between food consumption and a healthy body. In addition to local produce, honey, meat and dairy, the store sells organic supplements, cleaning and skincare products. A couple of years ago, environmentally friendly LooHoo Wool Dryer Balls hit the shelves.
The response to LooHoos, says store associate Lua Travis, has been overwhelming.
“They are really popular,” Travis says. “Sometimes we sell out and people are asking for them before we can get more in. Katha has tried other brands, but LooHoos last the longest and hold up the best.”
Feeding her community isn’t Koenes’ only goal. Common Ground buyers seek out socially and environmentally responsible suppliers and products that are fairly traded.
Three years ago, the store started supporting local charities one bean at a time. Today, customers who bring in their own bags are given a bean to deposit into one of 10 jars, each representing a local cause. Each bean generates 5 cents, and when the jar is full, a donation is made.
To date, the grocery store has given thousands of dollars to dozens of charities including an animal rescue, women’s shelter, soup kitchen and revitalization project.