Kim Page, 48, is in her 4th successful year of business with what she refers to as her “coffee shop gallery” called Higher Grounds in East Hampton. Since she moved to town 28 years ago, Page valued the existence in town of the type of cultural oasis that Higher Grounds has become.
Page chose to move to the town in part because of her fondness for “a funky little café in the building next door [to Higher Grounds’ current location] that had music and local art and little antiques and stuff,” she explains, “They closed, and until now we haven’t had anything.” After the café that she admired disappeared, Page endeavored to bring an indie-rock vibe back to the center of East Hampton. “I’ve just always wanted to have a funky little coffee shop where we could have art and music. There’s just not a lot of that around in Connecticut,” she says. Since Page opened Higher Grounds, other coffee shops have been springing up in the area. One of the newer shops, called “Down to Earth,” is located in Glastonbury, and another called “Something Simple” has surfaced in Hebron. “It’s kind of cool. They’re all popping up,” says Page, who claims to have happily helped several of the new shops with all of the troubleshooting involved in opening, which she knows well. “It’s just a family-owned kind of thing,” says Page of her shop, which has no employees outside of her family. Page’s son and husband, along with herself, are the primary workers. A niece and a cousin help to mind the counter as well. “We bake everything except the bagels,” she laughs. “That’s the only thing we don’t make. It’s crazy.” The menu at Higher Grounds includes breakfast items, daily quiches, wraps and sandwiches, a fresh daily side dish, and a variety of homemade baked goods such as fresh zucchini bread and banana walnut muffins. Though the shop does not serve alcohol, patrons are welcomed to bring their own alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises. Patrons of all ages are welcome. Higher Grounds’ menu revolves around what is available from local farms. Page regularly gets fresh foods from farms in East Hampton and South Glastonbury, and sometimes from the summer farmers’ market across the street. One of Higher Grounds’ weekly features is a Sunday “Acoustic Breakfast,” during which a singer/songwriter plays original music to diners who order from a list of off-menu specials such as Belgian waffles or a creative spin on the traditional Eggs benedict dish. Food is only part of Higher Grounds has accumulated an eclectic collection of works by local artists. From paintings large and small to photography to handmade jewelry, local honey and homemade dog and cat treats, the shop doubles as a gallery for local talent to display their works. Even the hallway leading to the restroom (cleverly dubbed “the loo-vre”) is bedecked with one-of-a-kind pieces, largely from East Hampton artists but hailing from as far away as New Haven. “This is a Kelly Loomis” says Page, pointing to her own necklace. “I bought it off my own rack over there.” Every Friday night, Page welcomes local musicians to participate in Higher Grounds’ Open Mic Night. Saturday nights feature live entertainment. Local band “Giggle Juice” is a favorite of Page’s and a regular at the establishment. Recently, the band “Cracker” of 90’s grunge fame paid a visit to the coffee shop. Page, whose musical tastes range from Americana to jazz, is always happy to welcome new musical talent onto the stage. On Monday nights at 7 p.m. and Friday mornings at 8 a.m., tables in the shop’s dining area are piled onto the stage to turn Higher Grounds into a yoga studio. Monday night’s class, Hot Cat Yoga, offers a high intensity workout, while Radiant Yoga on Friday morning offers a more relaxed and meditative pace. Page is currently working on adding a third yoga option. Higher Grounds in collaboration with neighboring businesses hosts the Strawberry Festival and the Harvest Festival each year. The festivals are community-wide gatherings complete with street vendors, food, arts and crafts and more. Hours and weekly happenings can be found on the shop’s Facebook page.