Cary, NC – For a person with a disability, finding job opportunities or finding a supportive work environment can be difficult. But a café and bakery opening in Cary in 2020 is aiming to do just that, with jobs and workplace development for people with a variety of disabilities.
Esteamed Coffee is opening in Cary in mid-2020, though the specific location is not yet finalized. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and is set up to hire, or take as volunteers, people with disabilities.
“It will provide individuals with a safe, supportive work environment,” said Tamara Lapsley, co-founder of Esteamed Coffee and a speech-language pathologist. “And we think it’s great to mix people of various disabilities to work together. They all have something to bring to the table.”
Esteamed has also received a $5,000 workforce development grant from the Duke Energy Foundation for training, including supportive strategies that use picture guides or a life participation approach that combines an employee’s therapy and monthly training with their work.
“It’s an extension of their therapy,” said co-founder Angie Hudson. “They’re practicing what they have learned and acquiring what they don’t have.”
Hudson is legally blind and said she has first-hand experience with how a workplace environment can be difficult for someone with a disability, so she said she is bringing that “unique understanding” to Esteamed.
“I want to turn something challenging in my life into something beneficial,” Hudson said. “We’re serving an underserved community. Also, we’re educating the public and creating relationships as they interact with the employees.”
Additionally, unlike some businesses that hire people with disabilities, Lapsley said the goal at Esteamed is to pay employees above minimum wage, based on the different roles at the café.
Not only is Esteamed providing jobs to people with disabilities, but Lapsley said it could be a way to move onto other jobs and careers.
“For some, this will be their in-job. For others, it could be a stepping stone,” Lapsley said. “They could be recruited by employers who come in and see them working or interact with them.”
Connection to the Community
Hudson said part of why they wanted to create a café specifically was to ensure that customers with traditional abilities get to interact with disabled people. Both Hudson and Lapsley said they were inspired by similar cafés in North Carolina, namely A Special Blend in Greensboro and Bitty & Beau’s in Wilmington.
“Often, they don’t know how to act,” Hudson said. “Here, this is highlighting and celebrating people with disabilities. They are front and center, not off working out of view.”
Esteamed will feature organic coffee and specialty coffees, as well as teas, smoothies and a variety of baked goods. They will also provide baked goods from Life Experiences, Inc., which provides jobs to people with disabilities.
The café will also have walls of art made by local people with disabilities, as well as sell gifts and crafts made by these communities.
“Once we open, I expect we will hear even more from people who want their art and their hand-made goods carried here,” Hudson said.
Story by Michael Papich. Photos courtesy of Esteamed Coffee.