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Common Goods

By Meagan Russell
In Bayou Eats
Aug 1st, 2021

Article by Vanelis Rivera

Styling by Taylor Bennett

Photos by Kelly Moore Clark 

The idea of the common good has been a consistent theme in Western political philosophy since the era of the ancient Greek city-states. It calls for a deeply embedded fellowship and asserts that people can and should live their lives attuned to social relationships, particularly in the realm of politics and public service. So when Emily Allen was considering the phrase as a name for her new “toast and espresso bar,” she realized it fit perfectly with her initial call to action—to offer a place of respite where food and coffee act as tools for the community. “I love the aspect of getting to know people in the community and offering a space where people can gather and have good conversations,” she claims. Alongside business partner and coffee pro Kaity Gauthreaux, Emily is using this quaint, Ruston-based space to spread the message that when we break bread together around a table, “friends become family and family become friends.” 

ORIGINALLY FROM MONROE, Emily moved to Ruston about ten years ago with her family. She started teaching second grade, but promptly realized it “just wasn’t the right fit.” Her husband, a regular customer at Railway Coffee, urged her to put her home baking skills to the test and apply for a job. “I was like, ‘sure, that sounds like fun.’” Baking for the coffee shop was a seamless fit, and not long after joining she was given a management position, which consequently grew her love for the craft. “Even though I no longer work at that coffee shop, the experience I gained was invaluable. There are no rose-colored glasses when it comes to owning and running a shop,” she reveals. There she met Kaity,  a kindred spirit who shared her passion for quality food, friendly ambiance, and mindful service. When the company’s management changed, Emily began looking ahead, with the goal in mind of becoming her own boss. Naturally, she approached Kaity about her plan, persuading her to take over the coffee bar. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but thoughts of sitting at a desk again for eight hours a day, staring at a computer screen ignited in them the desire to take a leap of faith.

Instead of turning to bank loans as their financial stepping stone, they opted to find assistance in their community via Kickstarter, a global crowdfunding platform focused on creativity. Though they also got generous backing from their fathers, the Kickstarter campaign was slightly risky because in order to get funding from the crowdfund they needed to reach the entire amount they asked for on their profile, which totaled $20,000.00. On the platform’s due date, seemingly with a little help from providence, they exceeded their goal by $2,000.00. “I’m so glad we did this. We’re not out-of-pocket at all,” says Emily. This off-the-beaten-path approach not only has kept them out of debt but has strengthened their business by bringing to the forefront the power of community and generosity. In that way, they managed to establish a close relationship between their business and the people they hope to serve.

Officially, Common Goods Co. opened May 5th, 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, which meant they opened with a takeout-only menu, at first. And although this was, as one customer called it, “ballsy,” it did give them a chance to refine their operation without a lot of pressure. Figuring out ways to prep food efficiently and expedite orders promptly was a cinch with a team of only five. That core would be responsible for the foundation of what has become home to a small, but motivated team that “truly thrive in that type of environment.” Their popularity is clearly a by-product of their persistence. “I would say, probably daily, like eighty percent of our customers are returning customers,” proclaims Emily, adding that Louisiana Tech is a significant part of their business. Regardless of where their clientele hails from, the staff makes sure to become acquainted with familiar faces, even if it’s just knowing whether they have kids, what their job is, or most importantly—how they take their coffee. 

That’s Kaity’s department, and with five years of experience in the coffee industry, customers can count on a prime brew every time. After sampling a plethora of coffees, they landed on using beans from Rhino Coffee in Shreveport. Not only was the quality up to par with their expectations, but they were excited to support a regional business. Their choice was further solidified by Rhino’s roasting team and how “sweet and knowledgeable they are,” asserts Kaity, adding, “They have continued to match their original quality and are just all-around our easiest partnership.” Common Goods’ coffee menu offers classic cafe options like lattes, cappuccinos, and cortados. “I’m a big fan of just black coffee,” says Kaity, “but when I do make a latte I like honey and lavender with oat milk.” Though their menu is straightforward, offering espresso options and a variety of brewing options, including Chemex, V-60, and cold brew, every few months they add “lots of fun” seasonal drinks, a result of the whole team brainstorming together and testing recipes. Their summer drink menu, which will last until August, currently lists a blueberry pancake latte (hot or iced) as well as watermelon lemonade and a tropical smoothie (pineapple, mango, banana, and coconut milk). 

Oh, and to circle back to Emily’s husband touting her baking skills—Common Goods brews may pull first-time customers inside, but Emily claims their bread is the star of the show that will keep them coming back. “I always said that if I ever ended up having my own place, I would want it to be a bakery with homemade artisan bread, most of which are made of sourdough,” she says. Inspired by a toast and coffee shop she visited in California, Emily endeavored to create a place that bakes fresh loaves every day. On their bread menu, they offer a Country Loaf (open textured loaf with a clean, simple flavor), Sandwich Loaf (sturdy loaf with a crisp crust and soft center), Baguette (thin, French-style loaf with a crisp crust), and a gluten-free loaf. Four sandwich options are available between 11 AM to 2 PM and include classics like grilled cheese to more intricate flavor combinations such as brie, apricot, and bacon. Their toast menu is perhaps the most frequented with six savory and sweet options that are as delicious as they are intriguing. The Breakfast Crunch is a promising start to any day with cashew butter, bananas, blueberries, and granola. Wanting more of a snack? Their Nutella + Berry is topped with the world-renown hazelnut cocoa spread, strawberries, and coconut. Their top-selling Avocado toast is on the savory side, and it accounts for about a fifth of their monthly sales. Topped with feta, bagel seasoning, and hot sauce, Emily claims, “In a week, we probably make three hundred!”

The bread items are a hard act to follow, but their sweet baked goods are up to the task, particularly their blueberry, Earl Grey vegan donut. Other delicacies are cinnamon rolls topped with homemade icing, cream cheese and blueberry cream cheese kolaches, cookies, and paleo bread (banana and blueberry). The summer menu boasts your choice of peach vanilla or cookie two-step affogato, an Italian coffee-based dessert where a scoop of ice cream is christened with a shot of hot espresso. “I’ve never gone to cooking school or anything like that. I’ve just taught myself,” admits Emily, informing she just aims to use simple ingredients and create simple presentations, which ultimately result in “really good” tasting creations. Regarding their menu, Emily says they plan to keep things relatively small, maintaining that instead of having an expansive bill of fare, she’d “rather offer ten really great things.”

The intimate menu is intentionally reflected in their warm and cozy interior. Their commercial space is perfectly situated between the north and south side of town, an area that was unfortunately hit by the tornado last spring but has made an impressive comeback, one that they are glad to take part in. With the help of a friend, Emily was able to curate a “light and airy” space that feels natural. Light wood tables are decorated with wildflowers placed in glass jars. White molded Evie chairs create a tone of modern elegance that compliments the rosemary-colored coffee bar counter. “Table together” is painted in green, lowercase letters on the main wall, while a reading nook is embellished with a brightly colored, floral mural painted by artist Rae Tedeton. The space is minimal in the best way, adding distinct details that give it character, like the wooden pegboard shelves (made by Emily’s husband), mounted brown paper roll menu, and the woven pendant light fixtures. 

“I honestly forget that I own this shop sometimes because Emily and I are on the front lines so often,” exclaims Kaity. Though they manage different moving parts of the business, they both have learned the power of working in partnership. “I love that we work shifts just like our baristas do. We get to interact with the community that is consistently supporting us and get to set an example of how we want things done,” she adds. Good coffee and bread may effortlessly make things better, but the Common Goods team wants to also nourish souls. After all, they believe we should all champion the common good.

Common Goods Co. is located at 1007 N Trenton St, Ruston, LA. They are open Monday through Friday between 6:30 AM to 5:30 PM and Saturday from 8 AM to 2 PM. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook!