Celebrating Five Years
Jan 23

My very first project in Siem Reap was to take a basically empty building and convert it into a coffee shop. A tall order for one who didn’t drink coffee and had zero experience running a coffee shop or restaurant. (Although I am an extreme tea drinker, I have to confess I now succumb to the dark side every once in awhile.  How can I live–yes, literally live–in a coffee shop and not be lured by those wonderful coffee smells?)  But I digress–You can imagine how I second-guessed every decision in those first months of setting up a restaurant, hiring and training staff, making up a menu–relying more on gut instinct than on experience I didn’t possess. Many mistakes were made along the way, and I learned from most of them.

Even though experience was lacking, there was a vision. This vision included creating a space that was comfortable and providing a “haven” for those who needed one. My desire was to have a staff that was more family than employee, and last but not least was good, simple, and delicious food and drinks.

So, it is now five years later and Common Grounds is a well established landmark in the town of Siem Reap.  It is known for its friendly staff and good food. In 2011 Lonely Planet recognized Common Grounds as one of the top five places to dine for a cause in Siem Reap. Eat good. Do good. All of our profit goes back to serving the people of Cambodia. This year all of the profit is being given to the PCL Build-A-City project to build houses for the poor.

It has been a wonderful five years. The poor have been given a working chance. Common Grounds became a place of community for resident and traveler alike. Thanksgiving feasts complete with all the trimmings have been proudly served. Many birthdays have been celebrated. Thousands of meals have been ordered and even more coffee has been consumed.

Truthfully, it is hard to believe that five years have passed since the ribbon was cut–officially opening Common Grounds.  Some of our original staff is still with us and it is wonderful to be a part of their journey.  We have many loyal customers who are counted as friends. This past year I passed the coffee pot to Matt Nelson’s very capable hands and he is successfully growing the business as well as cultivating the original vision. I think that it is a pretty safe bet that another five years is in the bag.

(If you are one of the unlucky ones and haven’t been to Common Grounds yet, get on a plane and come to Siem Reap.  We are waiting for you!)


by: Julie Martinez

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