“How can you get mad when you’re ordering a cupcake?” says Leng Woon, 70, as he sets up pink patio chairs on the morning of Aug. 13, which just so happens to be the 16th anniversary of his Renton bakery, Common Ground Coffee and Cupcakes.
To celebrate 16 years as one of Renton’s favorite downtown coffee and pastry stops at the corner of 3rd and Wells, Woon and his family decided on a “Sweet 16” theme to celebrate their milestone. “It was my daughter’s idea after my wife wanted a birthday party,” he said.
Woon runs Common Ground with his wife Heng, 68, and the morning of the Sweet 16, their daughters Christina, 32, and Diana, 31, are helping open the shop and serve Common Ground’s loyal customers.
We try to keep customers like family, Woon says, which undoubtedly contributes to Common Ground’s longevity. “The day we opened there was a long line down the street, so the customers were always there,” Woon said. “Business has been good even during the pandemic and even if anyone is grumpy at all, we know that it’s not personal.”
To help celebrate Common Ground’s Sweet 16, a collage of photos of different employees and menu items from over the years are set up in a corner of the shop, buoyed by balloons, party favors and small pink cupcake samples that Heng dilligently hands out to customers with a smile.
Throughout the morning, Common Ground is peppered with customers coming in for their morning coffees and the delicious desserts as Christina and Diana help their parents fill out orders, being as much a part of the shop as their hardworking parents.
The Woons had lived in Covington before moving to Renton 27 years ago and they decided to go into the service industry, something that Woon says is a family tradition.
“I grew up in the food business and parents ran a Chinese restaurant,” he said. “When I worked at Boeing for 31 years, I missed interacting with customers.”
When they decided to open Common Ground, Woon said that the downtown area was “boarded up” but he still signed a 15-year lease. “It shocked my landlord,” he said with a laugh. “It feels old [but the best part] is the people, because they’re friendly, and my family, of course.”