I thought I was seeing things when I saw a coffee shop one day in Mount Olive. It’s such a small town and doesn’t usually have many changes. Downtown seems to only have about ½ the business that it used to when I was younger, so it appears to me. And a lot of houses and buildings are now vacant, old, or run down, but Amy Brogden had a brilliant idea when she decided to open a coffee shop close to the college and in the center of town.
Southern Ground is located where the old HWY 55 used to be, in the same shopping center as Food Lion. They 1st opened up in June 2020 right in the thick of COVID. Luckily they were not affected as much as others. While a lot of businesses were struggling to get supplies and contractors, she was lucky enough to have a husband who owns a contracting business. So when they decided to move into the old Boost Mobile store, which was a shell, her husband was able to build almost everything that she needed. Even though the world was full of COVID restrictions and fear to be in public, they were able to outgrow their location in just one year. That’s when they moved to their new location in October 2021.
Amy was a licensed supervisor for stockbrokers by profession and then transitioned into insurance. After only a year of being in the industry, she realized she hated it and wanted something different. Her sales were falling, and she had to figure out what to do next. One day during a meeting with her boss, he suggested that she work in coffee shops so that she could meet people and tell them about their insurance plans. When she told him there was no coffee shop in Mount Olive, he was shocked and couldn’t believe there was no coffee shop in a college town. That is what sparked her idea to open a coffee shop.
She had no prior coffee experience, and a lot of what she knows was self-taught by watching videos, reading, researching, and practicing. Amy said things just seemed to fall right in place, and things were happening at the right moment. She was able to randomly connect with a woman that has owned 5 coffee shops, and she was able to learn a lot from her. She also learned a lot about the roasting process from her supplier.
The coffee in Southern Ground has very unique names, and the community played a big part in that. A lot of people come in and ask for special blends they have had at other places, and her employees love to mix and match the flavors to create their own unique taste. When that happens they test the new coffee mixture in the store and if people respond to it well it becomes a new menu item AND the person who created it gets to help name it! I thought that was so cool! Customer satisfaction is important to her. If you don’t like your drink they don’t make you pay for it.
Quality is also important to them. When they were shopping around for a distributor they narrowed their coffee down from 60 different coffee roasts. They also did 3 private tastings with friends and family to make sure they picked the right one. I fell in love with the place as soon as I walked in. An interior decorator must have had their hands own that place because it is decorated and designed so beautifully. Different sections of the store have a different feel, but no matter where you decide to sit it looks comfy. There is a couple of areas where people can have meetings, including their meeting room that they let people use for free. The building is also shared with PDW and Daily Testify which is a Christian social media group. They have offices in the back and help split the overhead costs.
They are not doing food quite yet, but they do offer small locally made bakery items like croissants, muffins, cookies, etc. to compliment the coffee. So instead of food for this review, I tried a variety of their coffee blends. They also have chicken salad and pimento cheese available. I tried 2 of their drips the 19th Hole which was made with rich chocolate and caramel, as soon as she put the cup down on the table all I smelled was the delicious aroma of chocolate. Who doesn’t get excited over the smell of chocolate right! It was a bold coffee so it’s for the real coffee drinkers, not the “frou frou” coffee drinkers like me that want all the creams and all the sugars! HA! It’s something that would definitely wake you up in the morning. It paired great with the cream cheese pumpkin roll I tried. Then I tried the Crème Brulee drip coffee made with creamy vanilla custard and caramel flavors. I tried the banana split Frappuccino which is coffee-free unless otherwise requested. I am not a big fan of banana-flavored things, but it wasn’t bad. It tasted like a banana split milkshake. If you are into that flavor, I am sure you would love it. Lastly, I tried what I was told is the most popular drink, named after a sassy employee, the Sassy Pants. I had it iced. It’s made with white chocolate and caramel flavors and I loved it! I am all about some caramel now! I always appreciate a coffee that I don’t have to fix up, and I didn’t have to do a thing to this one. It was a lighter coffee and not too bold. This iced coffee would be a great little pick me up for that after lunch, mid-day slump we get into. I really enjoyed the pumpkin roll too. I am just getting into the whole pumpkin craze, and the pumpkin bread and cakes have been the only things so far that I like, but that cream cheese pumpkin roll was delicious! For all the pumpkin lovers out there, they had a whole pumpkin spice line available, but you better hurry. I’m sure it will be phasing out after Thanksgiving. They also offer smoothies and teas, and most things can be made hot, iced, or shaken.
I’ve played around with the idea of having a coffee shop one day, maybe in retirement, and this place definitely brought back that itch! I have found a new place to work when I don’t go into the office, so I’m sure I will become a regular. I loved Southern Ground, and wish them nothing but success. I give them an A+!
REPOST FROM MY DUPLIN TIMES NEWSPAPER COLUMN, "DUPLIN EATS"