By now if you’ve walked into Hidden Grounds you’ve heard of and/or met Anand and Spoorthi, more affectionately referred to by staff and friends as Spoo. (Take the time to imagine the mortifying feeling of almost texting your boss, “Poo” asking whether or not to make Cold Brew, but more on me and other staff in the next post). From the opening of Hidden Grounds, Anand and Spoo have put their heart and history into their store, consciously making every decision to better the community while staying true to themselves and their vision. By the time I had started working at HG, Anand and Spoo had decided to take a step back from the store, and seek opportunities outside New Brunswick, and even the United States, to make Hidden Grounds not only a household name in New Brunswick, but far outside the city.
Anand and Spoo are those friends who are easy to envy. The ones who were unfulfilled with their corporate jobs, and instead of sulking and waiting for things to change, decided to make the leap of faith. The two year anniversary of the store has given them an opportunity to reflect on the decision they made, both the good and bad that have come from it, and envision the future. For the beloved regulars of Hidden Grounds, it’s hard to imagine New Brunswick without it, but the community HG encourages couldn’t exist without these two.
Both Anand and Spoo draw inspiration from their fathers’ work ethics. It’s hard imagining Anand coming from a regimented, strict businessman of a father, based on the fact I can spot a hole in every one of his t-shirts, but this is how he describes him. “He woke up, ate, and prayed at the same time every day.” While Anand will always strive for consistency, if nothing else the smell of masala chai being made in Hidden Grounds acts as a tribute to his dad’s travel agency in India, where the soothing drink was always brewing. Unsurprisingly, based on Spoo’s constant cheer, her father encouraged her to work hard, yes, but more importantly to always work hard at something she loves.
With the idea set in motion, all the two had to do was implement it. Their hardest challenge, having never had to deal with such a diverse staff or customer base, was simply people! Having to deal with this, I think, wipes away any envy I feel for the business owners. The complaints are endless; from having to explain the impossibility of a privately owned business matching the efficiency of Starbucks to mourning stolen mason jars. (In case you were wondering what happened to them all). Everyone has an opinion, and as a business owner it’s hard sorting the good from the bad.
When the business first opened, there was no other word to describe Anand and Spoorthi, but naive. Neither of them had worked in the industry or owned their own business. They just knew the corporate world was not for them. All they could do from there was take skills from their J&J jobs, where Anand was a business intelligence advisor and Spoo was a project manager for IT infrastructural projects. (you’d have to ask them for details on that). I wonder if Anand knows how much we all check out, once he starts throwing around the phrases “data points, risk factors, and profit margins.” When it came to running a coffee shop all they could do was take the plunge and wait for the outcome. I’d say they’ve been pretty successful.
In Anand’s own words, “Hidden Grounds is no longer ours. It has become more about the people who visit the shop and people who make it successful on a daily basis. Hidden Grounds has become bigger than just Anand & Spoorthi. People recognize it for the experience it provides as opposes to worrying about who owns the place.”
As for the future they can mildly control, Anand sees two or three more stores across the nation in the next two years, a more diverse, and refined portfolio of products in the next five years, and a seat at the top 5% of the coffee chain in 10 years. Spoo, usually the more practical of the business partnership, who’s always trying to distract Anand from “shiny new things,” also shares his vision for influence in the global world. Described by friends as a true Leslie Knope, her “go big or go home” attitude is infectious.When asked what character he identifies with most, Anand couldn’t answer. “I don’t know anyone like me. or anyone as obsessed with business like me.” If that doesn’t describe him well enough I don’t know what does. (Should I also mention the fact he’s a Leo?).