How do you top a new business’ fantastic first year of offering great coffee and delicious ice cream in a welcoming, family environment? For the gang at Higher Grounds Coffee & Ice Cream Company on Colington Island, you just add a dash of Christmas.
The shop, which opened last fall, was the culmination of a dream project for Ryan Jorgensen, his wife Traci Jones-Jorgensen, and her sister Kristi Jones. The trio’s goal was to create a place for families — and their pets — to enjoy great coffee, delicious ice cream, fresh-baked pastries, and most of all, to soak in the scenery and homey atmosphere. It’s been a hit from the very beginning, according to the owners.
“We get people from all over the world,” says Jorgensen, who still spends weeks away at sea running scallop boats off the Northeast Coast. “Bikers, kayakers, travelers... people literally walk up and say, wow, we didn’t expect that! That ‘wow factor ‘continues to this day. I sit outside and watch people’s expressions as they see us for the first time. It is so heartwarming.”
The owners are taking that feeling into the holidays with fresh ideas.
First of all, the menu has been spiced up for the season. Thirsty visitors can choose from a latte list that features cinnamon dulce, peppermint mocha, salted caramel, and, of course, pumpkin spice. Those seeking a sweeter tipple can try new “holiday hot chocolate” flavors of peppermint bark, mocha coconut, or toasted marshmallow. No time to sit and sip? Pick up a “traveler” to take home or to a party —12 cups of your light or dark roast coffee with sugars, creamers, and stirrers.
All the favorites remain on the menu, including Jones’ fresh-baked banana bread, muffins, brownies, scones, coffee cakes, and bagels, plus the customer — favorite Holiday pies — graham cracker or cookie crusts filled with frozen layers of soft serve and custom toppings.
In the spirit of the season, local musicians will stop by for caroling. The owners will also host visits from Santa, posing for pictures with children and pets.
“Our customers loved the caroling out on the big deck,” Jones-Jorgensen says. “It was a huge success last year, so we’ll continue it this year, with a hot chocolate special on that night.”
Ellen Marks says she and her family stopped in for the first time over the summer while visiting friends in Colington Harbour and were “blown away not only by the ambiance but by the ‘feel’ of the place.”
“I’d been to Colington several times over the years, and we’ve eaten at SaltBox Café many times, which is always exceptional, but Higher Grounds was a really nice surprise. Having a specialty coffee house so close to a large community like Colington Harbour was an inspired idea — and they’ve pulled it off very nicely,” Marks says. “I definitely plan to come out during the holidays. The owners — and I had the pleasure of meeting all three of them — is the embodiment of ‘good will toward all, and that’s what the holiday season is all about, after all.”
The owners of the informal gathering place has already seen some of that “good will toward all” in action: In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Michael, which brought winds in the 50 mph range, dangerous storm surge, and heavy flooding to the island — locals pitched in to help get the coffee shop back open.
“After a lot of weather came our way, the hurricane left six feet of water under our shop,” Jorgensen says. “The elevator survived, but the garden was annihilated. While I was fixing it, people would pull in to give us a pat on the back or offer to help. We still have such support from those who come into our shop. I can honestly say the community loves that we are here — so that’s another reason we are offering this to the community.”
Beyond the holidays, the owners have big plans for the future of Higher Grounds. Jones-Jorgensen says they continue to update the menu, adding smoothies and other treats for those who don’t drink coffee. Jorgensen is a tad more secretive about his plans for what he once considered only a “pipe dream” — adding that his plans for Higher Grounds in 2019 are a fit treat for everyone on Santa’s ‘Nice List.”
“If I have my way, and with a little more room, there will be some beautiful surprises ahead,” he says.
For now, the Jorgensens are working on expanding their own family, with a new arrival expected after the first of the year. The couple has chosen not to know the gender — they want to be surprised. They like happy surprises, like the one they got when the community embraced them and their business with open arms.
“This is paradise,” Jones-Jorgensen said. “This is a close-knit community, and we are happy to be a part of it. The shop has become a destination. I feel like I’m in my own house, except there is great coffee. That is exactly how we feel and how we want the people to feel.”