Owner of Common Grounds aims to have a place for inspiration and community


Kyra Johnson

Jeff Foster is the owner of Common Grounds in Sycamore with the goal of making it a “safe space” (Kyra Johnson | Northern Star)

By Kyra Johnson, Lifestyle Writer

DeKalb County is home to very few Black-owned businesses. One of these is Common Grounds: Coffee, Tea, and Smoothies, 2180 Oakland Drive Unit B in Sycamore. 

Owner Jeff Foster reopened in July 2016 and created a space with a vision for anyone to get inspired. Common Grounds moved shop locations to a more suitable space for his business. As this local coffee shop has grown and evolved, Foster said that his space has become a place where art and community inspire everything he does. While traveling during his time as a graphic designer, Foster’s inspiration to have more discussion about ongoing problems that we face in the world were conversations that were had while drinking coffee and tea. 

“I went to a series of workshops and conferences on the topic of human trafficking,” Foster said. “I also visited India back when I was working as a graphic designer. And so I got to know a lot about that part of the world and the people from India who produce a lot of the products that we talk about.” 

The different coffees available at Common Grounds include lattes, espressos, mochas and more, all hand-brewed and crafted by Foster himself. One can find a variety of vegan and vegetarian-friendly drink and food options on the menu. Items range between $5 and $18. Curbside pickup is also available at Common Grounds. 


Foster was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. Growing up, Foster has had a love for and has exhibited his passion for art, books and music through his coffee shop’s experience. As he shares his goal to build a sense of community amongst visitors. 

“We’ve never been just a place just to grab a cup of coffee and go,” Foster said.

Foster almost became a full-time minister prior to becoming the owner of Common Grounds. He worked in Chicago with youth programs through the Cabrini-Green housing projects and through various churches within the Chicagoland area. Feeling marginalized as a youth had led Foster to want to give young people the opportunity to aspire and dream.

Common Grounds welcomes college-aged individuals, especially those who resonate with the difficult transitions between high school and college life. His shop is a place for students to come and get inspired, network and grow as individuals. Common Grounds is the perfect study spot for students looking for that balance between socializing and studying. 

“We need transparency in the world,” Foster said. Foster wants to create a safe space for students to feel safe regardless of their race, religion, spirituality, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and more. 

Events that have been previously hosted by Common Grounds include musical performances, paint and sips, coffee chats, poetry nights and more. Common Grounds is open to hosting student organizations for community and university events such as trivia and game nights, workshops and panels. 

Sydney Williams, also known as Chakra Da Kyd, is a senior at NIU as part of Four Poets, One Mic, a poetry collective organization. The organization has previously collaborated with Common Grounds and would love to work with the business again. Williams said that Four Poets, One Mic is “more than willing to collaborate with Common Grounds again” in the near future.

Common Grounds Coffee is hosting Paint & Sip with a Book every Monday evening starting at 4 p.m., according to a post on the business’ Instagram. Each Monday, a new theme is available and supplies from the shop may be borrowed at any time.

Those interested can follow Common Grounds on social media at @commongroundstribe to stay up to date on all the latest events, new menu items and store hours. For more information, be sure to check out their website or call 815-570-3379.