Gathering Grounds in Perham marks 20th Anniversary

Ask Lynn Johnson and Kari Roberts what's surprised them the most about owning their own business for 20 years, and with a laugh they will tell you the biggest surprise is that they are still in business.

"We had no idea what we were doing when we started out, and we are still here," Roberts said, glancing over at her mom, who laughed along with her.

Johnson chimed in, adding that they really didn't know what they were getting into and with no formal business education, it was kind of a fly-by-the-seat of their pants situation in the beginning.

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"You have this plan, and you kinda know what you are getting into, but at the same time you don't. And it's probably a good thing," she said smiling.

The laughter flows as freely between the mother and daughter duo as the coffee from behind the counter, which adds to the comfortable, homey atmosphere of The Gathering Grounds/A Place in the Country in Perham.

The business started out with crafts, something Johnson started making when her kids were little. That led to fixing up a shed on their property to sell her wares. Then in 1991 they opened a store next to Gene's Sport shop in Perham. The coffee shop was added after the owners of Milano's approached them about buying their store. That happened about the time they had purchased the building they are currently in.

"We would go to Milano's quite often for coffee, and we always had customers asking where to go for a good cup of coffee and a sandwich, so we decided to buy it," Johnson said.

Their plan for their business wasn't complicated. They like coffee. They like food, and they like decorating.

"We didn't really think about it, we just did it. We like to eat, we like to drink coffee and we like to decorate our houses. Really, it's as simple as that," Roberts said.

"I think that's why we are still here. We do what works best for us, and we have been blessed with good customers and great help," she added.

They are probably also still here because they know how to make customers feel at home, greeting many of them by name as they make their way to the counter to place an order for a hot cup of taste-bud tempting chicken tortilla soup or a delectable turkey club.

Johnson and Roberts agree that during their 20 years they have been blessed with good help, a good local following and they said the industry business has been great.

"Our long time employee, Pam, has been our steady presence. We wouldn't be here without her," Johnson and Roberts both said.

Some may not be able to fathom working with a parent, or any family member for that matter, for Roberts, however, working with her mom is her favorite part.

"We get along well and we each have our strengths," Johnson said. "This is too much for one person, we have made a heck of a team over the 20 years."

Both agree that while they may be amazed that they are still in business after all this time, they love that their place isn't just a spot for a good cup of coffee, soup or a sandwich, but it's also a place where good memories have been made for people.

"That's really one of the perks, to hear about the memories people made here," Roberts said. "It's good to know that you send them off happy and they ate good. That's all you can ask for."

By Kimberly Brasel

Source, images, credits & more information: PerhamFocus