By Janee Law
Cause Café offers more than coffee. The Northport café, which opens its doors this Saturday, provides job opportunities and training for young adults with autism and other cognitive or developmental disabilities.
“There are very few, if any, companies on Long Island that are hiring these kids in a visible model, where you can see them and you can interact with them and people are able to appreciate the value that they bring,” said owner Stacey Wohl, whose 18-year-old daughter Brittney and 16-year-old son Logan have autism. “I wanted to give kids like them and other kids with disabilities visible employment in the community so they’d be integrated with their neurotypical peers.”
With the growing success of the non-profit Our Coffee With a Cause, which Wohl began in 2012, she decided to move the cause to a storefront to continue and enhance job opportunities for young adults with disabilities.
“I think a lot of the kids and young adults feel marginalized, they haven’t been accepted in a regular job working sight and they don’t feel like they’re part of the community,” said clinical psychologist Cheryl Mendelsohn, the director of education at the café. “This gives them a purpose and they’re so motivated to work because they feel needed and they feel important.”
Cause Café hosted a ribbon cutting on April 30 to honor Autism Awareness Month. It officially opens on Saturday at the 1014 Fort Salonga Rd. location that was previously Cook’s Scratch Kitchen and Bakery.
“This is a coffee shop with a twist. With every purchase at Cause Café you will be doing something worthwhile,” Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson stated. “When you shop the Cause Café, you’re supporting those with special needs by providing an opportunity for employment and making a positive contribution to the community. You’ll also get a great cup of coffee.”
As a French themed bistro, the café’s products will be directly imported from France, offering healthy breakfast and lunch menus that were created by Chef Christin Butcher, a former cook at Cook’s Scratch Kitchen.
Along with providing gluten and dairy free products, the menus will feature items like pancakes, pastries, sandwiches, smoothies and more.
While the café continues to grow in employment, it will also be offering internships and volunteer opportunities for workers.
“We really want to start where they feel comfortable and then have them work little by little out of their comfort zone to get more skilled to work with the public,” said Mendelsohn, who’s leading the internship program. “We want to teach them to really be self-sufficient so when they go some place else to work, they will have these skills under their belt.”
Open six days a week from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., the café will be closed on Mondays to train employees.
With experience working for the non-profit, Wohl said that her children will be working at the café as well, adding that her son enjoyed working the soft opening.
“He loved it, he served food, he bussed tables, he was in his element, and he did a phenomenal job,” Wohl said. “The minute they put the hat on and the shirts, they have a lot of self confidence because they’re part of something.”