Tampa, FL — There’s another kind of coffee shop opening soon in South Tampa.
A non-profit organization that employs people with intellectual disabilities and provides them with a safe and secure workplace while making great coffee.
For one of our baristas, Katie Huettle, the joy of doing this is highly contagious.
She’s 24 and loves acting and theater, but when you talk to her, that’s just the beginning of what she enjoys.
“I also do voice acting, so that’s my night job as well,” Huettle said. “So I’m busy. I want to be busy.”
That’s why she’s inside Bayside Baptist Church. Because she works as a barista for what she calls her day job: CUP, which stands for Coffee Uniting People.
She has autism but is doing well thanks to places like CUP. She makes coffee and puts a personalized photo in each cup.
“At a coffee shop, you might write your name, or you might write a slightly frightened or smiling face,” says Huettle. “It’s kind of what I do.”
CUP is a non-profit organization that provides people with intellectual disabilities secure jobs and a comfortable environment in which to thrive.
It is currently open two days a week at Bayside Baptiste in South Tampa, with its first location opening in South Dale Mabrey.
CUP president Greg Jones said, “You can go to other coffee shops and buy coffee, probably like we do.” But when you come to CUP and support us , you don’t just buy coffee, you end up supporting these wonderful, wonderful people.
Jones sees this from conception about 14 months ago, and hopes to have about 40 employees before the first stores open in a few months.
“The support has been there. The calls, the emails, the messages from moms, dads, brothers and sisters have been phenomenal,” Jones said. “It was heartwarming, to say the least.”
Because he says this kind of workplace is desperately needed in our state.
“In Florida, the majority of the disabled population is unemployed, about 80 percent,” says Jones. “We are going to work on it.”
And they do just that with each cup of the CUP.
“It’s fun,” said Huettle. “It’s personalized. It’s not just a cup of Joe.”
Katie and her colleagues soon find themselves doing more than just coffee. They can make lattes, frappuccinos. You name it, they brew it.
At CUP, every drink here means something.
“We all feel supported and it’s great that they understand all of our capabilities,” said Huettle.
These caffeinated beverages are created with care from people who care very much about every cup they create.
The CUP store will open in S. Dale Mabry in late February or early March.