Coffee shops can be found here and there, but this one located in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, is offering something special.
Michael Coyne, who lives with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and bipolar disorder had trouble finding a job for two years.
“After I turned 21, I applied to multiple places. None of them would hire me,” he told WPRI-TV.
He was constantly rejected by the local businesses in his hometown, so the 23-year-old Special Olympics of Rhode Island athlete decided to take matters into his own hands.
He used this painful experience as motivation and attended business classes at the Rhode Island Developmental Disability Center. Upon finishing, Michael’s family helped him open Red, White & Brew – his very own coffee shop.
The establishment began its operations in November and aims to help other people like Michael by hiring people with disabilities. The coffee shop is also connected to The Budding Violet, a gift store that sells homemade products made by people with special needs.
“As parents, we look at our kids and see the value,” Michael’s mother, Sheila Coyne, said. “We see what they are capable of, instead of the system that’s consistently labeling them and putting barriers.”
“What I liked about the coffee shop idea is the community. We learn on both sides,” she continued. “We teach people, ‘Yeah, he has a disability, but look what he’s doing. And he’s out in the community getting his social skills.’”
Sheila also believes that there is an easy way for business owners to integrate people with disabilities into the workforce. Making small adjustments to common business practices, such as using a barcode scanner instead of entering prices manually or getting a milk steamer that automatically shuts off, can make a whole lot of difference for individuals like Michael.
“It’s making accommodations that I think the business community thinks is going to be costly, but it’s really not,” she said. As for Michael, he hopes that he’ll be able to create an inclusive environment by hiring people with and without disabilities in the future.
The coffee shop has been open for only a few weeks, but it has already become a favorite among families who have children with special needs.
“It’s just a beacon of hope for people with disabilities,” Michael said. “We’ve had parents come in with tears in their eyes with the hope that their young children will eventually be accepted into the community,” Sheila added.
The Coyne family hopes that their coffee shop will help open doors for people with special needs who are struggling to find employment and spread the message that they are hardworking individuals, too.
“We just want to integrate,” Michael said. Red, White & Brew uses Ben’s Beans coffee from Putnam, Connecticut and sells muffins, pastries, and calzones.
Support Michael and other people with disabilities by visiting Red, White & Brew at 601 Great Road, North Smithfield, Rhode Island.