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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021

Daily Grind Replaces Carol's in Downtown Middlebury

The former home of Carol’s Hungry Mind Café, 24 Merchants Row, is bustling with activity again. After weeks of preparation, Jennifer Stocker and Adam Shafer opened The Daily Grind, a new coffee shop

Inside, the space is fresh but familiar. Students type away on laptops, friends chat about work, and the lone visitor sips on his coffee. Behind them, a clean row of photos line the once crowded wall. The sleek renovations add new life to the friendly, casual feel of a neighborhood café.

For the couple, who also own Shafer’s Market & Deli and the Foundation Salon & Spa downtown, opening The Daily Grind was a dream come true. “I’ve always wanted that space,” Stocker said. She explained that Shafer started working at Carol’s as a baker 12 years ago.

The couple hopes to expand the store beyond coffee, building a tapas food menu and an entertainment space in the basement.

They want to attract a different audience to the shop with poetry readings, karaoke nights and music. It is also part of a plan to make the business profitable, something that Carol’s struggled to do.

“You can’t sustain a business on coffee alone,” Stocker said. “I’ve contemplated putting in a bar downstairs.”

In the meantime, she wants the town to know that a new shop has opened. “People are still getting used to it being back open— daily and consistently,” she said. “Every day is a little bit busier than the last.”

But as business grows, Stocker may soon encounter many of the same obstacles that Carol’s faced. The rail bridge’s construction is a major deterrent for visitors, decreasing foot traffic and obstructing parking spots. Customers who linger for hours, paying only for a cup of coffee may continue to present a challenge. Still, Stocker remains unconcerned, dedicated to bringing in patrons.

“If I know someone’s around the corner, I’ll go stand in the middle of a parking spot,” she said. “[Or] I’ll give them my spot.”

Stocker’s vision is a hopeful, yet nostalgic one. “Ten or twelve years ago, I used to want to go to Carol’s all the time,” Stocker said. “I want to get back to the warm, inviting, friendly face in town.”