Alan Rebar approached his favorite local coffee shop Monday morning, preparing to spend the next hour and a half or so reading from a stack of three books he carried with him, along with his usual order of a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on an everything bagel. But a text message from one of the shop’s now-former employees stopped him: The popular Hampden cafe had closed, forever.

Chestnut Avenue’s Common Ground shuttered abruptly this week, bringing an end to a 25-year run with a typed sign taped to the door thanking patrons and the community before stating: “Ownership has made the difficult decision to cease operations effective Immediately 7-2-23.”

Owner Michael Krupp could not immediately be reached for comment Monday morning. But news of the closure stunned the clusters of customers who stopped by for their morning caffeine injection and favorite baked goods.

After reading the sign on the door, Julie Ryder of Medfield called out to her husband, who toted the couple’s 4-year-old daughter, Coco, and her stuffed animals in a red wagon. “They closed completely! Forever!” Ryder said. “Something must be really wrong.”

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Popular Hampden coffee shop Common Ground closed abruptly this week, notifying customers in a sign Monday morning. (Christina Tkacik)

Ryder said the family came a few times a month, and that the eatery offered something for everyone, including gluten-free baked goods to accommodate her own diet. “It’s great for all of us.”

Rebar said he had been a regular at the shop for 10 or 15 years, and that “everything seemed completely normal yesterday.”

Former Common Ground barista Nic Koski, who had messaged Rebar to inform him of the shutdown, said the shop’s employees were caught off guard by the news when they were told Sunday afternoon. “We’re just sort of figuring out everything ourselves.”

Hours later, Koski and a group of former Common Ground employees said in a statement they were given less than 12 hours notice about the closure, and blasted Krupp, who “was not transparent with his staff.”

They added that they had spent the previous few months forming a workers’ union, and, according to the statement, they are exploring “the possibility of forming a worker-owned cooperative to save our jobs and Common Ground.”

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Though there are other coffee shops in the Hampden area, including Good Neighbor on Falls Road and Vent Coffee Roasters in Medfield, those places are on the other side of West 36th Street. Rebar called the closure of Common Ground “a blow. It’s a real kind of center of the neighborhood.”

Another nearby coffee shop, Spro Coffee, closed in 2021. But Hampden has otherwise seen vibrant growth in its hospitality scene in recent years, with a number of new restaurants launching on West 36th Street, nicknamed The Avenue.

Common Ground had only recently relocated to its large Chestnut Avenue building, which was previously SweetSide Cafe, from a smaller shop on The Avenue. The property is listed in online state records as belonging to Wayne and Judy Gioioso of Baltimore. “It’s just kind of jarring,” said J.P. Hechter, who stopped by for a cup of coffee after visiting his parents in Harford County.

christina.tkacik@thebaltimorebanner.com

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