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Coffee stand that employs people with disabilities looks to open Raleigh shop

After two years of serving coffee at a booth at the State Farmers Market, a nonprofit is ready to expand thanks to the special employees who work there.

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Renee Chou, anchor/reporter,
Rick Armstrong, producer
RALEIGH, N.C. — After two years of serving coffee at a booth at the State Farmers Market, a nonprofit is ready to expand thanks to its special employees.
321 Coffee provides opportunities for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. "The 3-2-1 represents Down syndrome being the third copy of the 21st chromosome," said Linsday Wrege, CEO of 321 Coffee.
321 Coffee employs people with physical and mental disabilities

If adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities can find a paying job, it's typically not in customer service, according to Wrege. That's what makes 321 Coffee -- which currently employs 21 people -- special.

"I wanted to create something in a place where they can work in a meaningful way," Wrege said. "They can be a contributing and involved part of society and just show off all of their unique strengths that this community has to offer."

321 Coffee couldn't have been a better fit for 22-year-old Matthew Schwab, even if he can't vouch for the product itself.

"To be honest, I'm not a coffee drinker -- but I'm a coffee server," Schwab laughed.

Schwab and his and lifelong friend, Megan Czejkowski, do everything at 321 Coffee, from running the cash register or working the espresso machine. Their reputation is winning over regular customers like Rob Drew.

"I was having a bad day at work and I saw this and met these folks," Drew said. "I saw all the people put together and it reminded me of what's right with the world."

Wrege is ready to expand the mission of 321 Coffee by opening a storefront in the Raleigh area. It could mean more hours, more pay and more independence for her employees.

Wrege said she's currently working with commercial realtors to find a spot in the downtown Raleigh area.

You can visit 321 Coffee at the State Farmers Market on Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Visit their website to learn more about the mission.


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