The 10 year grind

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By Joshua Duran

The party, wich lasted into the early hours of the morning on April 29, was attended by Conkerite’s family and close friends, as well as local business leaders. (Christopher Dietrich)

By Joshua Duran

The year that I first moved to Riverside was the year “Back to The Grind” opened, and lo and behold 10 years later we are both still here.

I was one of its first customers.

This is the place that introduced me to the Irish Creme Latte (the best drink ever invented). It was Darren Conkerite, the coffee shop’s owner who made me my first one. Now, I can’t go to any other coffee shop without comparing their lattes to “The Grind’s.”

On April 29 “The Grind,” as it is informally called, celebrated 10 years in downtown Riverside. Conkerite held a private party for friends, family and of course his “regulars.”

Conkerite and his good friend Scott Cole first came to Riverside in 1994 and immediately noticed a lack of community oriented businesses. After realizing that whenever they traveled they ended up in coffeehouses they decided that a coffeehouse was just what Riverside needed.

But not just any coffeehouse, a “hub of information” as Conkerite says where people can come and find out what is going on in the city.

After searching for a suitable location, Conkerite and Cole found a location that suited their vintage tastes, a small space in downtown Riverside. After pooling their resources they decided to go for it.

During the building phase Conkerite and Cole allowed the community to be a part of “The Grind” by allowing people to come in and ask questions. This openness was what first drew some of its first customers.

“It made the community more involved in it; it made them feel like they were a part of it,” Conkerite said.

In 2005, Cole decided to venture into other areas of interest. Cole is now serving as a consultant to help open other coffee shops.

“The Grind” has become something of a second home to many people, young and old, rich or poor. There is a sign on the wall that reads, “Back to the Grind is a place for all to come together leaving all labels outside…”

This feeling of welcoming and acceptance has garnered “The Grind” something of a cult following. Local writer Michael Morris calls it “little Bohemia,” a place from which he draws inspiration.

For Conkerite the shop and business keep the focus on the customers and makes them first.

“No matter what goes on, (“The Grind”) is always here for them,” Conkerite said.

Conkerite has a passion for “The Grind” that he can’t let go of.

“One benefit of being a part of the community is you see people at young ages mature into great young adults,” Conkerite said.

“The Grind” is a cornerstone in many of its customers’ lives.

Long-time customer and RCC student Joshua Frasier considers “The Grind” to be a second home to him.

“It has a very diverse patronage; you can get lots of different ideas and world views.” Fraiser said.

This is the view that is seen by many of the customers at “The Grind;” a place of ideas, a place of welcome, learning and understanding. That view has kept “The Grind” open for 10 years and it will remain open for another 10, despite the coming of a Starbucks and a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to downtown Riverside.

“If I can manage to do this for 20 years I’m gonna have a really big celebration,” Conkerite said.

“The Grind” is a place where people can come together.

It is because of this attitude that “The Grind” has become what it is today; a coffee shop to some and a home to many.

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