View Full Version : Uncommon Grounds to close in December

11-17-2008, 10:05 PM
Uncommon Grounds, the coffee shop in Bricktown, will be shutting its doors for good in December...
From Steve Lackmeyer at

Uncommon Grounds, the coffee shop on the ground floor of the Mercantile Building is closing in December. Gary Berlin, who bought the building a year or so ago, confirmed he tried to double the shop’s rent after the lease expired. He thinks he’ll have no problem leasing the space for an even higher amount of rent once it’s empty.

He said there is no truth to a rumor at OKC Talk that he has a new tenant lined up for the space. Uncommon Grounds has been in business since 1995.

Chicken In The Rough
11-18-2008, 06:55 PM
What a shame. Few businesses can survive a doubling in rent. This is both sad and disgusting. I hate to see a successful local business being run out like that.

11-18-2008, 07:38 PM
It happened quite a bit down here in Austin a few years ago on South Congress and South Lamar. There was a neon shop on South Lamar that was in a dumpy little building forever, a new owner bought the place and did the double on them. They moved out and the place is still vacant, they started remodeling it a few months ago after sitting vacant for all that long. Some places have moved to other parts of the city and other just closed up shop.

11-19-2008, 06:56 PM
that's sad. i spent a lot of time there hanging out on their deck back in 03-04

11-19-2008, 07:37 PM
I used to go there back when they first opened until about 2000. Sorry to see them go.

11-20-2008, 10:37 AM
Wish they could reopen elsewhere.

11-20-2008, 03:04 PM
Wish they could reopen elsewhere.

I hope they do.

11-21-2008, 12:08 AM
I work for Gary Berlin. Uncommon Grounds is working from a 15 year old lease.
Since the first day of owning the Mercantile Building Gary Berlin has been spending more for the space Uncommon Grounds occupies than what they are paying in rent. Do the math, what owner wants to Loose????

In fact the rent they pay is only 666. per month as base rent . Gary discovered shortly after taking over the property that there was also to be a percent to be paid of operating expenses based on sq feet. He ignored this trying to establish good relationships with his tenant. This was an example of Gary being the good and decent person he is.

Gary provides cleaning and supplies to Uncommon Grounds restrooms, unfortunately keys are made available to anyone who wants them and as a result he maintains a public restroom at approx 200.00 per month operational expenses. Take this from the base amount and the loss is even greater.

Gary is not the Greedy Landlord he was made out to be in Steves Blog, in fact he is just the opposite.

Gary has been dedicated to making his building better. The new rental figure of 1350.00 offered to Uncommon Grounds is within reason considering how much utilities have risen in 15 years.

It was Uncommon Grounds who chose not to accept the fair rental amount offered them. They choose to not accept the offer.

The offer is very fair and not highway robery as Steve protrayed it to be.

Gary Berlin is an asset to Bricktown and I think it is unfair for the press to bash him without all of the facts.

11-23-2008, 08:03 AM
Perhaps Uncommon Grounds should try and earn more income by doing some things different. The response I read to Steves blog states the landlord only wants $45.00 per day all inclusive as his new rate. Isn't that like 8 Lattes to make up the difference in rent?

Where there is a will there is a way. Sell More if $45.00 a day is going to run out of business. The orginal $25 or so a day is definitly out dated and even at $45.00 per day that seems like a great deal. Hotdogs to the bar crowd,
lunch specials, 45. per day nothing with the customers there to draw from.

I think some businesss in Bricktown close due to managers and owners even though it is easier to blame it on greedy business owners. I believe in business you get what you put into it and if you are highly motivated you can succeed even if rent were 100.00 per day.

If you have no interest in changing things up and just walk away and close the doors on a popular loved business then maybe it is time to go.

If not then maybe it is time to look at your budget and see how just earning $25 It just doesn't make sense to me why all the fuss over such a small increase.

Sprucing up the place might not be a bad idea either. The front glass never gets cleaned etc.

The local coffee shop needs to stay but the owner needs to care weither they stay or not and put some real effort into making the business make more money.

11-23-2008, 09:50 AM
Yeah I think the latest on Steve's blog debunks the idea that the landlord is at fault here. It sounds like Uncommon Grounds' lease hadn't been updated since they opened, and they were getting a steal.

More on Uncommon Grounds (

12-19-2008, 10:01 AM
After a sad goodbye to my friends at Uncommon Grounds on Wednesday, I wanted to set the record straight on a few things. I think Steve's blog post with the e-mail from Gary might have unintentionally confused the issue a bit. The comments read like a number of folks took all that was said at face value. Janice chose to not fire back, which I think was good of her, despite the fact that she was hurt by some of the comments made by folks, including those made in the e-mails.

I want to tread carefully here, because I have met and spoken with Gary a few times, and I think he truly is a nice guy with his heart in the right place. Besides, the simple fact is that he and I both remain a fixtures in Bricktown while my friend Janice has now left.

First, people were left with the impression that she had never had a rent increase during the 15 years Uncommon Grounds had been in that location. That was never addressed after Steve's blog post, but she actually had re-upped her lease (with a rent increase) five years ago, before Gary bought the building. Also, she was not the original owner. She was actually the third (the guys who started it lasted a very short time and Janice bought it from the second owner Donna some years ago).

Second - and I'm guessing Gary would probably now tell you this - I don't think he totally understood at the time the value of a longtime, popular ground-floor retail/restaurant tenant in that building. He definitely does now, after he heard from his tenants and others during this process. On Wednesday, folks from 3rd Degree Advertising and other area companies, plus a lot of other regulars, spent most of the day coming in and out of the shop and taking photos with Janice and Megan, giving them hugs, and generally moping around. I doubt anyone will do that with me if I ever vacate my space.

There is a term in the real estate industry called a "loss leader," often a building amenity/desirable tenant that is leased below market rates to build value for the rest of the square footage. That is what Uncommon Grounds was to that building. Many, many times I have seen people from those offices and others conducting interviews, client meetings and the like in that shop. Lunch (which was pretty fantastic at Uncommon Grounds, with great sandwiches and soup that customers fought over) was easy for them on a cold day, or when buried in meetings. Also, 3rd Degree folks never had to bother with a locked common-area door if they were the first ones in of a morning; Uncommon Grounds opened the building at 7.

Uncommon Grounds, or really any independent shop like that, is truly a marginal business anyway. Not a cash cow by any means, with daily sales often in the low hundreds of dollars, from what I understand. It's hard to justify paying what would have been at the high end of Bricktown's already salty rent structure. But they provided an amenity for tenants, and a reason for others to come into that building.

I think the thing was that Gary initially was probably only looking at how much rent he thought he needed to get out of that space based on what he paid for it (which was reportedly a lot), maybe had a few other deals working at the time, and being a nice guy who's also (from what I understand) a bit new to that type of real estate, he didn't want to play the heavy, so he just avoided confrontation, not responding to Janice's multiple requests for months to renew her lease (in which she was perfectly willing to have a standard increase).

It all came to a head in the last month, when he finally communicated with her, but by saying he would only go month-to-month, and was basically doubling her rent without warning. That just isn't a workable scenario for her already marginal business, so she decided to leave. She looked at other spaces, but they either weren't ready yet (Candy Factory), or didn't work from a location standpoint. Her streetside location and high visibility are probably the main thing that made that shop viable, and there are some places that offer one or the other, but not both.

I think the other thing at work was that Janice didn't need that coffee shop. It was more than a hobby (she worked there herself a few days a week), but she didn't need it for the income. I think that made the decision to close a much easier one for her, and maybe even a bit of a relief.

Anyway, after several folks approached Gary after the closing announcement, I think he began to better appreciate the value of the store, and the potential difficulty in getting a new tenant for that space (especially at the price he was originally asking for). He approached Janice with a willingness to negotiate, but I think at that point the decision was too far down the road. The good news is that he was in the store on Wednesday, they were friendly, and I think they are parting on good (enough) terms.

It's just a shame for everyone involved that it couldn't have been worked out. Hopefully for Gary and for Bricktown that space fills quickly (it is after all a great location), but that remains to be seen. For what it's worth, I think Janice overall felt like he was a pretty good landlord, except for the lack of communication during the lease renewal period and the way everything went down at the end. I certainly am in no position to speak for Gary, but I would guess that he would handle things differently if he had it to do over again. Unfortunately, Bricktown is a tough place for on-the-job-training, for business owners AND for property owners.

Anyway, I hope I haven't misrepresented anything. I just felt like it wasn't right for Janice, a long-time, really good business operator in Bricktown, to leave with some sort of cloud over her head. She and her employees deserve better. There's not always a bad guy in situations like this. Sometimes there's just bad communication.