Coffee with a Higher Mission at Independent Grounds Cafe in Kennesaw, GA

On a chilly winter afternoon, I drove to Independent Grounds Cafe in Kennesaw, GA. This was a different kind of coffee excursion where I wasn’t interested in tasting great coffee but rather learn more about the coffee shop and its wonderful story. I spent about three hours at Independent Grounds Cafe and spoke with Lorna Heid, as well as four baristas/employees at the shop: Ben, Emma, Alexis, and Kathryn.

The mission of the shop is to empower adults with disabilities by giving them a chance to work at the coffee shop, to interact with the local community, and to inspire the customers who come in through the door to think differently (in a positive light) about adults with special needs.

Coffee with Heart

The mission of Independent Grounds Cafe is to serve great coffee while hiring adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). Lorna Heid, the owner of the shop, sought to fulfill this mission because her own daughter, Emma, suffered a traumatic brain injury at birth. Emma is now one of the baristas employed at Independent Grounds Cafe.

In a report issued in June of 2018, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics cited that in 2017, only about 19% of persons with a disability were employed. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 65.7 percent. In my conversation with Lorna (the owner of Independent Grounds), she mentioned how people with disabilities want to work and take on responsibility. Independent Grounds fulfills its mission by hiring about a dozen staff with special needs. As Lorna Heid explains:

Our goal is to put a smile on your face and give you an amazing cup of coffee. We want you to feel at home here, to get to know our team and maybe inspire you to think differently about the world of special needs.

Photos from the space are below, but I want to emphasize that my visit was more about getting the message about what Lorna and Independent Grounds Cafe is doing. Of course, it helps that Independent Grounds has such a beautiful space and serves Rev Coffee!

The Space

Independent Grounds Cafe is fully contained inside a building which used to be either a dentist’s office or some other local business. The space is massive, complete with a large outdoor deck and, in addition to the main space, there are three separate rooms which are more like “quiet rooms” if you want to get some work done in peace (scroll down for those photos).

The exterior of Independent Grounds Cafe.

Another entrance to Independent Grounds Cafe.

The front patio at Independent Grounds Cafe.

The main dining space at Independent Grounds Cafe. So much natural light!

Continuation of the main dining space at Independent Grounds Cafe. The front counter where you can order coffee is at center left.

View toward the other side at Independent Grounds Cafe. Plenty of space to relax.

Beautiful tabletop decorations at Independent Grounds Cafe.

The Menu

The drink menu at Independent Grounds Cafe consists of hot and cold coffee beverages (the cafe is partnered with Smyrna-based coffee roaster Rev Coffee for their beans), frappes, tea, and smoothies. The cafe offers light snacks and desserts; Independent Grounds Cafe is partnered with Remedy Bake Shop to offer gluten free cookies. Finally, Independent Grounds Cafe has a partnership with King of Pops ice cream.

The menu at Independent Grounds Cafe. Independent Grounds Cafe is partnered with Smyrna-based coffee roaster Rev Coffee for their beans.

Muffins and other desserts on sale. The cafe is partnered with Remedy Bake Shop to offer gluten free cookies.

You can sign a guest book at Independent Grounds Cafe. I shuffled to a blank page to take this photograph.

Ben, one of the baristas working at Independent Grounds Cafe, prepares a strawberry smoothie.

Ben warming up the milk for a coffee drink. All smiles here!

Muffins at Independent Grounds Cafe.

Another highlight: there is a pop-up box with King of Pops ice cream! So many great partnerships at Independent Grounds Cafe.

One of the rooms inside the cafe where you can retreat to study or read quietly.

Another room inside the cafe where you can retreat to study or read quietly.

And yet another room inside the cafe where you can retreat to study or read quietly. So much space!

Merchandise for sale.

Friends Gather Here — a great message at Independent Grounds Cafe.

Interior decor at Independent Grounds Cafe.

An Inspiration to Others

In my conversation with Lorna, she mentioned how her coffee shop has become a destination for parents with disabled children/young adults all over the Southeast. Here, the parents come with their children and the parents can proudly show to their children that their disability shouldn’t be an excuse to slow down; in fact, places like Independent Grounds Cafe show that it’s possible to have a disability but feel empowered and provide a benefit to society.

A Message to Readers

This blog post is certainly not the first to shed light on Independent Grounds Cafe. Previously, Barista Magazine did a feature on Independent Grounds Cafe. Beth McKibben, writing for Eater Atlanta, spotlighted Independent Grounds Cafe at the top of her article, “Atlanta’s Essential Coffee Shops.”

Nevertheless, I feel like these spotlights have been few and far between, and the purpose of this blog post is to shed some additional light on what Lorna, her staff, and Independent Grounds Cafe stand for and do on a daily basis.

During my conversation with Lorna, she lamented that the hardest thing for her business is still getting foot traffic through the door. Too many people still find it inconvenient to get out of their cars and therefore they choose to stay in their vehicles and go through the local Starbucks drive-thru. The mission of this website and blog is to profile independent coffee shops that deserve your business, and I hope I am able to convey this message about Independent Grounds Cafe. As I recently observed on Instagram, coffee is one of those elements that provides us with an opportunity to slow down. I only wish people would take this message to heart and divert even a few minutes out of their day to stop at Independent Grounds Cafe, enjoy the coffee, interact with the wonderful employees there, and perhaps learn something new or even gain a new perspective about employees with disabilities.

If you found this message inspiring, the best thing you can do is drive up to Kennesaw and spend your hard-earned money by purchasing drinks and other treats at Independent Grounds Cafe. If you live in the surrounding area, then I hope you make an effort to get to Independent Grounds and support this local business. My general rule-of-thumb is that select coffee shops are deserving of the extra drive no matter where you live in the Atlanta area, and Independent Grounds Cafe certainly belongs on this special list.

Of course, the other thing you can do is to share this blog post with your friends and family via email, text, or on social media, letting the awareness grow about Independent Grounds Cafe and its honorable mission. After all, Independent Grounds Cafe is a coffee shop with ❤️.

The logo. Independent Grounds Cafe: a coffee shop with heart.

A special thanks to Ben, Emma, Alexis, and Kathryn for keeping me company during my visit and chatting about all things coffee; and a heartfelt thank you to Lorna for taking the time to speak with me, but more importantly, for executing her mission with Independent Grounds Cafe.

Independent Grounds Cafe
Web | Facebook | Instagram

3900 Legacy Park Boulevard, Suite #A100
Kennesaw, GA 30144
Google Maps link
ph: 678-695-7132

Hours of operation:
Monday-Saturday: 8AM to 5PM
Sunday: closed

Coffee Roaster / Roasting Partner:
Rev Coffee Roasters (Smyrna, GA)

Sessions Stand: A Taste of the Coffee and Pastry Community in Marietta, GA

Sessions Stand, located about a half mile north of busting Marietta Square, is a walk-up coffee and pastry shop in a quiet residential area.

I visited the shop on a cold, dreary day in January; however, the weather certainly didn’t stop the locals from stopping by to enjoy a coffee on the warm patio or to get a coffee to go.

The space is a building painted in mostly white, accented with blue hues. The storefront has some items (such as the fresh baked sourdough bread) on display through the windows.

Photos from my visit are below.

The front of Sessions Stand in Marietta, GA.

View of Sessions Stand from the street.

Back of Sessions Stand.

The perimeter of the Sessions Stand patio is adorned with flowers.

The menu at Sessions Stand is compact and fits on a single board in front of the register. The coffee partner (roaster) at Sessions Stand is the nearby Rev Coffee Roasters. Below is the full menu at Sessions Stand:

  • Coffees:

    • Cold Brew Coffee

    • Drip Coffee

    • Espresso

    • Americano

    • Flat White

    • Cappuccino

    • Macchiato

    • Latte

    • Mocha

  • Other drinks

    • Juice

    • Tea

    • Chai latte

    • Hot chocolate

    • Kombucha

    • Smoothie

  • Food

    • Soup

    • Cheese Toast

    • Power Bites

    • Overnight oats

    • Avocado toast

    • Chicken salad

    • Lunchable

    • Selection of daily pastries

I ordered the cappuccino and cheese toast (In case you were curious: I asked, and avocado toast seems to be the most popular food item on the menu). The cheese toast was a good late breakfast pick-me-up, served warm and delicious.

With respect to the fresh pastries, Atlanta Magazine profiled Sessions Stand, and its owner, Katie, in spring of last year:

Katie makes her pastries from scratch every day. While savory quiches, muffins, and chocolate croissants rotate on and off the menu, the shop’s standbys are fruit danishes and whole wheat croissants. Danish fillings vary depending on what’s in season—currently, the buttery dough is filled with a slightly tart cream that balances out fresh sweet strawberries and an apricot glaze. The croissants are made with spent grain that Reformation Brewery presses out of their beer during the brewing process. Katie coats the spent grain onto the dough so that it’s layered like butter, giving the croissants a nutty flavor...

And when the warmer temperatures arrive, I think Sessions Stand will stand out for another element you won’t be able to find in many coffee spots:

Visitors can also buy bouquets arranged by local floral company Dianthus & Co. Florist Megan Dunlap sources flowers like peonies and ranunculus locally when possible. The flowers have been a surprising hit at the stand, selling out almost every day. In the summer, there will also be fresh produce on sale from local growers like Tucker Farms and Straight From the Backyard Farm.

Pro tip: If it happens to rain while you are visiting Sessions Stand, your coffee is free with a purchase of any pastry. It does have to rain while you are ordering at the counter (i.e., it’s not just forecast for rain, or that it rained ten minutes ago). This neat policy keeps people coming when business would otherwise grind to a halt, since there is no indoor seating at Sessions Stand.

Table decor at Sessions Stand. Sadly, the plants have seen better days (freezing temperatures did not help).

Sessions Stand logo on the cappuccino cup.

Warm cheese toast!

Front counter of Sessions Stand. The space heaters are a necessity in the winter months.

Walking by Sessions Stand. (Notice one dog in the arms).

A really thoughtful touch by the Sessions Stand crew is the availability of warm blankets for guests to use during the cold days. Since there is no interior (only an outdoor patio), the blankets are an extra bonus to stay warm and sip on the coffee in comfort.

Warm blankets are available for Sessions Stand customers.

Ring for service!

All of the lights.

Sessions Stand exterior.

I really enjoyed my visit to Sessions Stand. I think it’s one of the cutest independent coffee spots in all of Atlanta. The coffee is great, the patio is warm and inviting, and the staff are friendly. If you are in the Marietta area, definitely make a tiny detour to check out Sessions Stand.

Sessions Stand is open Monday through Friday, 6AM to 6:00PM, and Saturday through Sunday from 7:30AM to 4PM.

One last thing about Sessions Stand: there is no official website for the shop. The only social media presence is via Instagram, which seems to be sufficient to entice locals and newcomers alike. (I am a big fan of the Instagram account myself). The hashtag to use in your social media posts, should you desire, is #coffeepastrycommunity.

Sessions Stand

380 Sessions Street NW
Marietta, GA 30060
Google Maps link

Hours of operation:
Monday-Friday: 6AM to 6PM
Saturday-Sunday: 7:30AM to 4PM