A cup of coffee for a good cause. Sounds like a dream, right? It will soon become a reality at Rise Coffee Co. & Nye's Cream Sandwiches, a new coffee and ice cream shop opening on State Street in downtown Sarasota. The shop hires individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities, giving them a chance to join a workforce with a supportive and inclusive environment.
Employees will not only earn a wage, but will learn life and social skills imperative to their needs. Founder and owner Beaver Shriver has been working with the disabled population all his life, and feels honored to be providing this opportunity.
"A big issue for this community is employment," says Shriver. "Eighty percent of the disabled population is unemployed right now, compared to 6 percent of the general population."
According to Shriver, employment for the disabled community is about more than gaining a paycheck. It also provides feelings of dignity, satisfaction and pride.
The coffee shop will open with between 30 and 40 employees, most of whom live in assisted living facilities like The Haven or Easter Seals Southwest Florida and have disabilities such as autism and Down syndrome. Each employee underwent a traditional job interview, and has gone through training to learn how to operate coffee makers, put together orders and work the register. The shop partnered with a virtual reality company, which created a coffee shop simulation, for employees to continue practicing their skills while quarantined during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"These guys will be out front and center, greeting customers, filling orders and maintaining the space," says Shriver. "This helps them become part of the community at large, and in turn helps neuro-typical customers learn how to interact with those who have disabilities. Hopefully, we can open some eyes and hearts and end the fear of difference."
The state-of-the-art coffee shop was previously home to the restaurant Daily Bird. The shop has a full kitchen, where employees will be making baked goods and ice cream sandwiches, as well as two espresso machines that contain touch screens, making it easier for the baristas to fill orders. The menu will consist of the typical coffee shop fare: espresso, lattes, drip coffee and nitro cold brew, made from a cast iron tap system left behind by the previous establishment.
Shriver's business partner is a professional chef and founder of Nye’s Cream Sandwiches, Christian Nye, who will make ice cream and cookies for ice cream sandwiches made with the customer's choice of flavor. The shop will also have New Orleans-style beignets, complete with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
"There will be a neuro-typical person serving as a team leader for each station in the shop, offering help to employees who may be overwhelmed during a busy day," says Shriver. "This will definitely not be a fast experience with baristas flying around like crazy. It will be slower and thoughtful."
The shop will open quietly within the next few weeks, and its hours of operation will be from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. Follow the shop's Facebook page for an announcement on the shop's opening date. Rise will also offer local delivery; employees will ride a tricycle equipped with a cooler through downtown.
"Our employees are so grateful and excited to get started," says Shriver. "When they're working here, they are included, and are given a platform and voice they may not have had before."
Rise Coffee Co. & Nye's Cream Sandwiches is located at 1534 State St., Sarasota. Follow the shop on Facebook for opening details.