A new cafe coming to West Allis this summer will serve local coffee and eats, while providing employment opportunities for adults with disabilities.
Kindly Coffee is slated to open June 11 on the ground floor of an office building at 1205 S. 70th St. The building was recently renovated as part of Milwaukee-based Cobalt Partners Allis Yards mixed-use development, just north of West Greenfield Avenue.
The business’ mission hits close to home for founder Sydney Tucker, whose younger sister Emma developed cognitive and physical disabilities as a child. Growing up, Sydney often took care of Emma, who was bound to a wheelchair. On weekends, they enjoyed spending time together at coffee shops in their hometown Darien, Illinois. Emma died in 2019 at the age of 16.
Now, Tucker is launching Kindly Coffee to honor of her sister’s memory, said co-founder and Tucker’s fiancee Dujuan Cherry in an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee. The idea sprang from a conversation the couple had about how Tucker would pay tribute to Emma’s life.
“She said she would create a coffee shop that puts adults with disabilities at the forefront of it all, to showcase their skills and talents and their stories and give people a perspective on what it’s like living with a disability,” said Cherry, who is also founder and CEO at AgencyML, a local social media marketing and advertising agency. Tucker has a day job as a teacher Shining Star Christian School.
Kindly Coffee is looking to hire five employees; three of those positions are reserved for people with disabilities. The business is working with the Wisconsin chapter of Broadstep to recruit and support employees. The organization provides behavioral health and supportive living services to youth, adults, and families, according to its website.
Baristas will be trained by Milwaukee-based Anodyne Coffee, the cafe’s wholesale provider.
“They’ve been awesome to work with so far,” said Cherry. “It’s a different level of training when to comes to people with disabilities, and they’ve just stepped outside of that and said, ‘We love your mission, we love what you’re doing.’”
Anodyne is working with Kindly Coffee to adapt its standard training method to be more accessible for employees with different needs. Both Cherry and Tucker were formally trained to work with individuals with disabilities while attending college at Concordia University. They served as resident advisors for a program run by AbleLite, formerly known as Bethesda. RAs guided students in developing everyday living skills like doing laundry and paying bills, said Cherry.
In addition to Anodyne Coffee products, Kindly will serve light fare, ranging from breakfast sandwiches to cakes and desserts – all sourced from local producers.
Kindly Coffee has garnered strong support from the surrounding community since Tucker and Cherry pitched the idea to the West Allis Economic Development department. The city has provided resources for everything from staffing to financing and helped Kindly Coffee find a home.
The storefront on South 70th Street was previously home to Vida Coffee, a cafe run by a group of Marquette University students through its Blue and Gold Ventures program. The project was short lived: it opened in November 2019 and shut down a few months later amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Vida left most of its equipment behind, which meant the space was essentially turnkey for its next occupant, said Cherry.
“It’s an awesome location for us as we see West Allis continue to grow,” he said, commenting on the surrounding Allis Yards development, including a Home2 Suites hotel under construction across the street.
“We’re making sure our mission and the story we’re trying to tell is resonating with our community, and people are starting to see that,” he said.
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