Two new coffee shops, Memorial Brew in White Plains and Coffee for Good in Greenwich, are on missions to serve up more than great cups of coffee and baked goods. Both are working with different populations to train them in the craft of coffee-making and customer service so they can become gainfully employed by others.
Memorial Brew opened its doors in September 2020 at the United Methodist Church. Mindy Haines, Memorial Brew Youth Coordinator, says the coffee shop fills a number of needs, both for the community and internally.
On the community’s side, she notes that the site outside of White Plains’ busy downtown attracts a good amount of foot traffic and is next-door to a high school — great natural draws for a coffee house. The patio area, with greenery and trees, is an ideal setting for either a peaceful interlude or a meeting. Coffee is from Peekskill’s Big Bang Roasters and the baked goods are from Westchester Cookies. “The community appreciates that we’re serving fair trade coffee and have a local businesswoman supplying the baked goods,” Haines notes.
Weekend popups from a variety of food purveyors, whether they be chefs or bakers, are big draws. “The popups really give our teens a chance to showcase their skills,” Haines notes. For Matthew Moore of MAD Donuts, the allure of having a popup at Memorial is twofold. Since he closed his location at The Westchester last year, the popups allow him to bring his popular donuts to customers and keep experimenting with new flavors. “I look to partner with businesses that share my mindset, and I like how Memorial is empowering youth and is a non-profit,” Moore says.
Speaking of the volunteers at Memorial Brew, Haines says, “We want this to be an outlet for teens to gain valuable work skills while creating a sense of community for them.” In addition to work experience at Memorial, the teenagers have gone on field trips to area coffee houses to look at their menus and have discussions about customer service and entrepreneurship, Haines adds. In a personalizing touch, placards on tables have mini-bios on the people behind the counter.
At Coffee for Good, “Our mission is providing opportunity to young adults with differing abilities to learn on the job and earn a minimum wage,” says executive director Deb Rogan. The shop, which had its soft opening in June, is “focused on serving high quality coffee and food,” she says. Café visitors to Coffee for Good can partake of coffee drinks featuring Path Coffee Roasters (which created a line of beans for the store featuring such names as “Inclusive Brew“ and “Greenwich Ave Zest”), baked goods from Jackie’s Empanadas in Stamford and Leaven & Companions in the Bronx, and to-go salads, sandwiches, and soups from local Greenwich favorite Meli-Melo. You’ll want to linger to admire the architectural details of the space — Coffee for Good is located in the historic and recently renovated Solomon Mead building. Outdoor seating is on the horizon.
The business takes the concept of a coffee shop and “makes it a training platform.” This allows the employees to gain valuable skills and potential employers to come in and see what these employees are capable of. Rogan notes that these employees are generally very loyal and want to work. “Unfortunately, this group of people generally has a very high unemployment rate.” She notes that young adults with differing abilities are often said to be “falling off the cliff,” when government benefits end and that employment allows “these very capable young adults to have a purpose and a salary.”
Both Rogan and Haines say businesses such as theirs also benefit from the current need for labor in food services. “The timing is right for this concept because there is a workforce shortage in the hospitality industry,” says Rogan. She also notes that the industry “understands the benefit of having a diverse and more inclusive workforce.”
250 Bryant Ave, White Plains; 914.949.2146
Coffee for Good
48 Maple Ave, Greenwich; 203.979.4898