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Home Arts & Culture Neutral Grounds coffee shop unveils new renovations

The interior of the Neutral Grounds coffee shop, set up for a preview event, while the back half still shows signs of being in progress. 

Photo credit: Esther Molina

By Maddy Peters, Sports Editor


Neutral Grounds is finishing up renovations, but with its well-known roaster standing proud in the storefront window, it opened its doors to the public for the first time in 2024 for a preview of projects its new owners, Tyler and Mary Stastny, undertook to breathe new life into the building.

The first major change is the location of the coffee bean roaster, which used to sit across from the ordering counter. It now is where there once was window seating to provide a focal point for the store and larger community.

“We really want roasting to be the most fundamental part of the business, and we really wanted to draw the community in, so that’s why we thought we wanted to really have it in the storefront, Tyler said. “That, also with the smell of coffee out on the square, would just be a really nice community connection type thing.”

The roasting portion of the coffee shop was a big concern for the husband-and-wife team as they considered what they wanted to do with the business. They plan to put seating around the roaster so that people can enjoy the view of the city center and talk with staff and other customers.

“So, our overall idea is to somehow have a bar [or] something sitting around the roaster so that people can also engage when we are roasting,” said Tyler, “For this business, that is somewhat of our business model. The roasting is the main driver of this business.”

As for the building renovations, the Stastnys focused on making the store more efficient and putting on a new coat of paint to make the store more their own. There was water damage to the subfloor, which meant the floors had to be torn up, and they redid the plumbing throughout the building to prevent future issues. They also bought all new appliances, put down new tile and redid the bathroom.

“We really needed to update to a commercial space,” explained Tyler, “The bathroom – I always felt like that was just kind of grungy and dirty and so we tiled that. I have a really nice floating walnut vanity as well as a sink. It would just be more modern, more trendy, more Instagram-able, you know? You can see with the slats on the wall and something that draws people in.”

The store still has the familiar wood throughout, even with new furniture. Tyler was very conscientious about keeping that aspect and vibe alive.

“So that’s why I used walnut as the accent wood,” said Tyler, who is a woodworker and built the tables, which are ash, and the walnut shelves.

“You can even see my little inlay of my mustache I put in there! I free-handed that,” he said. “Nobody’s excited about that as much as I am, but OK, that’s fine. Anyway, I did do all the walnut shelves, so it’ll look really nice there, too.”

The store also still features local artists, with their work framed on the walls. On display for the preview were nature photos taken by Abby Baack.

Neutral Grounds also made several product changes to provide a unique experience for the Seward community. New specialty drinks include an Earl Grey latte called the “Fog á la Créme,” Tyler said. There is a salted maple latte and a Nebraska lavender drink using locally sourced lavender and honey. They also plan to have a simple food menu including egg bites, their signature toast menu, and pastries.

“We’re obviously going to keep the toast,” quipped Tyler, “I feel like that’s kind of a staple here.”

They also are looking into healthier options for those who want a boost of energy but have issues with coffee or caffeine.

“For the menu, I should add this too, we’re also going to add an option for a healthy latte option,” said Tyler, “So there’s going to be things like beetroot powder. There’s some other things, I’m not exactly sure on that portion of it, that’s more my wife, but anyway they added in kind of like that healthy option too from a latte perspective.”

Another product change was a new merchandise line set on display near the coffee counter. Products include beanies, hoodies and shirts. None of the items were for sale yet.

The Stastnys have teamed up with another couple, Ashley and David Geidel, to help with the business. Ashley used to be a manager at the store and her experience was helpful for the transition between owners. The team effort has been essential to the Stastnys, who have been working to juggle their other responsibilities on top of reopening Neutral Grounds.

“Me and my wife both have full time jobs as well, so this has been something that’s been a nights and weekend type of thing,” Tyler said. “That’s part of the reason why [renovations have] been drawn out a little bit longer than what we would like.”

The grand reopening date is still unconfirmed, but Stastny hopes for around March 11. The main issue is making sure the plumbing is in working order, but a total deep clean, redecoration and inventory stocking also need to be done before the big day. Many staff members are also Concordia students who will soon be gone for spring break.

The preview event was a team-up between Neutral Grounds and Allo Fiber, which opened a Seward location in 2023. But bringing the community together was a big reason for having the event.

“Allo actually reached out to us about an event,” Tyler explained, “You know, the nice thing about this business is I feel like people have a lot of draw to it. Like, there’s been a ton of excitement and a ton of just enthusiasm around this wherever you’re at in the community.”

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