BLUEFIELD, Va. — A new Bluefield, Virginia, small business, who survived opening during a pandemic, has started a major renovation project.

The Grind, located on 103 Spring Street Bluefield, Virginia, opened May 2020 in a mobile food unit and recently closed to renovate their physical location.

Collin O’Donnell, founder and owner of The Grind, says, in an email interview, about opening during a pandemic, “It was absolute chaos and nothing short of it. We could have never expected the community to support us in the way they did, it was nothing short of absolutely incredible and their response overwhelmed us in a good way.”

The idea and development of The Grind began in September 2019 and started what O’Donnell calls “a long and arduous journey.” O’Donnell and his team then took the idea to the Tazewell County Business Competition. By December, The Grind idea and the team had taken first place.

At the end of January 2020, The Grind became a legal LLC entity.

However, the following months of preparation and operation were not part of the original plan.

“Through ingenuitive and creative processes, we were able to pivot the business to a mobile food unit and saved our summer while learning so much about our customer base and getting an incredible amount of feedback,” says O’Donnell. “We put together a mobile unit menu, food ordering logistics, process, customer ordering process, health inspections, zoning, permits and more in just 27 days from the time we bought the trailer to the time we opened.”

Now, with the necessary funding and new knowledge through feedback, The Grind is now able to expand into a coffee shop and bistro.

“Previous to this, I had absolutely no experience in coffee at all and none of us have ever ran a drive-through,” O’Donnell said. “We went to classes on coffee, took up internships at companies and worked with local roasters to learn everything from scratch.”

The coffee shop and bistro will continue to include coffee from small business roasters found along the Appalachian Trail and bagels and some breads from Blacksburg Bagels - located in Blacksburg, Virginia. O’Donnell says they hope to incorporate local baked goods and soups.

The coffee shop and bistro will have “entirely new dynamics.” These dynamics will include hand-painted walls with murals, more equipment than planned, warm wood accents, a patio area featuring a fire pit and comfortable seating areas and a lounge area that will suit individuals who wish to work or simply relax.

O’Donnell’s team is made of Cole, Marisa, Sam, Josh and Joe - each having a stake in the company. Other major supporters, contributors, and partners include David Hite, assistant professor of business at Bluefield College, Nicole Kaklis, the Bluefield College football coaching staff - Coach Lusk, Coach Ketchum, Coach Kaklis and Coach Howard - and many other members of the community.

O’Donnell’s journey to this point has been a long and hard one.

During his military service in Afghanistan, O’Donnell sustained an injury and illness that sent him to Walter Reed Hospital for two years. During those two years, O’Donnell had over seven procedures on his foot and body to correct multiple infections and bone issues in his foot.

“I felt as though my life was withering away and I needed to push myself and reconcile with my shortened time in the service. I had a lot of regrets from not being able to fulfill my full duty to my nation and took it personally for a while,” O’Donnell said. “I decided to look at what I could do to push myself once more and feel the sense of pride I was yearning for.”

O’Donnell soon decided that he wanted another opportunity to play collegiate football. He began a rigorous training regimen to prepare. Then, an opportunity came.

“I sold everything I owned and moved to Bluefield, Virginia with my dog, a box of clothes, a microwave and an air conditioning unit for a chance to walk onto the Bluefield Rams football team with 142 others trying out in 2018,” said O’Donnell.

After much work and several games, O’Donnell received the opportunity to start at defensive line. By the end of the season, O’Donnell received a scholarship and became captain of the team.

“Through my GI bill and football scholarships, I saved some money because I knew I wanted to get into business in Bluefield, I just wasn’t sure what. When the Last Fountain closed in Bluefield I knew it was my time to step up,” said O’Donnell. “My friend Savannah Carabin at the Corner Stone put me in contact with the Bluefield Industrial Development Authority. From there, things took off and I competed in the Tazewell County Business challenge taking first place in two categories for additional grant funds to help me start my business.”

“I just want to ensure the credit is given to the men and women of Walter Reed and the unsung heroes of everyday life, they deserve a shout out,” said O’Donnell. “I also want to say how blessed we are to be a part of the community in Bluefield, we are thankful for everyone’s support and will continue to fulfill our promises to our community and grow here, we believe in Bluefield and Southwest Virginia and will continue to invest here.”

The Grind’s physical location is set to open between October 1 and October 15.

To read “Our Vision for Bluefield & Company Changes — An Open Letter” and “A Long Shot: Moving to Bluefield From New York to Start a New Life (Part 1),” you can visit https://medium.com/@TheGrindBluefield.

You can visit The Grind at www.thegrindbluefield.com. For updates and daily specials, you can follow The Grind on Facebook and Instagram - @thegrindbluefield.

Heather Hamilton is a freelance reporter for the Princeton Times. Contact her at hmhjournalism91@gmail.com

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