The Birth of Common Ground – by owner Adrienne Hulburt-Stroud


The idea of Common Ground (then “unnamed magical community space”) first came to me many, many years ago- pre-motherhood and in the midst of the every day humdrum of life.  You know that humdrum… the one where you find yourself coming and going, bouncing like an unenthusiastic pinball between work, the grocery store and home- but somehow always finding yourself going to bed feeling more than a little unfulfilled.  Never really knowing what part of the whole equation was missing (or maybe that’s just me??)

Post college, I was finding it difficult to acquire and maintain genuine connections with other people, especially on a regular basis.  I am fortunate to have people I do care about and visit with in my life, but there was this feeling that something greater was missing.  I was yearning for more than brief & impersonal water cooler conversations about weather. I had this aching feeling of wanting to be part of something *bigger*.

Until it finally dawned on me that the thing I was yearning for was community.

So I looked around myself, and realized I was indeed living inside a community, outwardly, but wasn’t really a part of it.  As I would pass neighbors on the sidewalk, visit our glorious libraries, walk in the beautiful conservancy… I noticed the people milling about in this community (including myself) were floating inside these self contained pods of isolation with nary more than a nod or “hello” to their fellow passerby.


Playing host to baby #1 in 2012. Do you see the existential glean in my eye??

And then came the motherhood part, a time which I decided to become a work-from-home mom so that I could be there for the precious fleeting moments when my children were tiny, squishy and helpless.  It was during this time, that the feeling of isolation became more and more evident.  As it’s not always so easy to get out and about when you factor in a tiny human with all of their larger than life mood swings, naps, interminable feedings and other persistent needs.  Not to mention the emphatic wailing when one of these needs aren’t immediately met.  Where was this “village” that I’ve heard so much about?  If it takes a village, every mother and father should really declare themselves a township.  Ours was population: 3 at the time, with one of those 3 (my husband, Aaron) away working much of the time, as he had taken over ownership of Madison staple Foreign Car Specialists then on Regent Street, while our son was a wee one.  Eventually the number of places I once frequented dwindled, and there were days where I would have loved even to have the opportunity for a water cooler conversation about anything besides diapers and nursery rhymes.


Common Ground owner Adrienne with husband Aaron Stroud and their children Teddy, Eloise & lovable pooch Oggy- Christmas 2018

Often in life, I have had thoughts and daydreams and ideas that I have gotten so used to tucking away and compartmentalizing into various subconscious folders of just that… daydreams.  Daydreams that really only ever get as far as a Pinterest folder of cute photos and ideas that “other” people create, and I just appreciate from afar.

But this time felt different.  The aching feeling grew stronger every day.  So strong in fact, that it became impossible to ignore. I had no other option but to address it head on, or learn how to build a sturdier subconscious folder and tuck it away deeper into my mind. But unfortunately (fortunately?) my subconscious’ data was full, and the only path I could see ahead of me led to following this dream.

And so, sometime in 2016 I began to take the wavering first steps beyond the daydreaming stage- coincidentally around the same time my youngest was taking her first steps in reality- and we both learned to brave the cold, harsh realities of the business world (or in her case, the cold, hard surfaces about the house).


What would be the adult equivalent of those foam bumpers you put on the edges of furniture- only for stumbling through vast fields of permits and financial paperwork while trying to open a small business? They should really make those.

Once I took the first, second and third steps, I realized I was moving at a decent clip, making slow but sure progress, and figured “well, I’ve come this far….” so I just kept moving.  Until I realized the last thing I really needed was a building for which to hold all of these grand ideas about community gatherings, book clubs, writers groups, live music, art classes, wellness groups, and other various catalysts for community and really just creating a comforting, welcoming gathering space.

So securing a property is what I focused on, spending every single day from then on searching for the perfect place, networking, going to oh so many meetings, business planning and endless research. Until finally (to abbreviate a novel length saga of events) I acquired the building located at 2644 Branch Street in Middleton on December 1st, 2017.


The lease was signed on Dec. 1, 2017 and we began work that day! I *may* have been more than a little excited…

And that is when the fun really began.


8 thoughts on “The Birth of Common Ground – by owner Adrienne Hulburt-Stroud

  1. I love this and I love Common Ground- this place you’ve created and provided for others to engage with the community is so needed. I’m so proud of you!


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