New café in Fort Salonga provides jobs for young adults with disabilities

New café in Fort Salonga provides jobs for young adults with disabilities

Staff members of Cause Café gather outside the front entrance. Photo from Stacey Wohl

Morning routines for residents in Huntington are about to get a little sweeter.

Fort Salonga’s Cause Café is the newest coffee shop working to bring jobs to young adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities.

Stacey Wohl, founder and co-owner of the café, has run the Our Coffee with a Cause coffee brand business with her two children, Brittney and Logan, since it was founded in 2012. Cause Café will sell its coffee, as well as breakfast foods, sandwiches and more.

Brittney and Logan, who both have autism, were named co-owners of the business in November 2015, and will both be working at the coffee shop. The shop is a crucial resource for young adults with disabilities, the owner said.

Staff members cut the ribbon at the opening of Cause Café. Photo from Stacey Wohl
Staff members cut the ribbon at the opening of Cause Café along with Councilman Mark Cuthbertson. Photo from Stacey Wohl

“I started talking to other parents and they had no job opportunities for their young adults with autism,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.

Although programs are set up for internships to work with nearby businesses, Wohl said they don’t translate into actual jobs.

“They fall off the cliff at about 22 years of age,” she said.

Aside from the kitchen staff and the counter manager, Wohl said every other employee at Cause Café is working with some form of a disability.

“I wanted a retail place where people saw the young adults with special needs and they were visible in the community,” Wohl said. “There are some companies who hire the disabled, but they are behind the scenes. [Here] they are right alongside with typical individuals in the community, doing some of the same jobs. They are involved in every aspect from the beginning.”

The founder said she is hoping to inspire other businesses to hire the disabled, and also expand this store into a chain, to create as many job opportunities as possible.

“I could open up 10 stores right now with the amount of people that want a job,” Wohl said. “I have parents calling me every day all the time, emailing, Facebook, calling. There are no jobs for kids with special needs.”

According to Disability Statistics, in 2014, 34.6 percent of Americans between the ages of 21-36 were employed. In New York, out of about 1.1 million residents with disabilities, only about 351,000 were employed.

The United States Census Bureau said between 2008 and 2010, individuals with disabilities accounted for 9.4 million, or 6 percent, of the approximate 155.9 million employed citizens.

In terms of what this coffee shop will offer to residents’ palettes, the choices are international and diverse.

The interior of Cause Café. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
The interior of Cause Café. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“I always wanted to go to France, so France came to me,” Wohl said of the theme of the shop and many of the items on the menu. She said the store is highlighting some products that “you can’t really find unless you go to Provence,” seeing as many items have been imported straight from that region in France.

Andrew Popkin, sous-chef at Cause Café, said that the menu features all homemade items that are both healthy and delicious. Popkin said the menu will have weekly seasonal specials, and some of the highlights for him include the buttermilk pancakes with maple butter syrup and the quiches.

“Our food is going to match up to [competitors] and, at the same time, you’re helping kids out who don’t usually have the opportunity to work,” Popkin said of why residents should stop in for a meal.

Cause Café is located at 1014 Fort Salonga Road and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. starting this Saturday, May 7.

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