Local News

Nonprofit coffee shop reopens after coronavirus shutdown, gets a free makeover

Posted July 10, 2020 6:00 a.m. EDT
Updated July 10, 2020 7:14 a.m. EDT

— A nonprofit coffee shop that employs people with developmental disabilities like Down syndrome reopens Friday after months of being shutdown during the coronavirus.

Many of the employees at 321 Coffee are high-risk for the coronavirus.

321 represents Down syndrome, which results when a person has a third copy of the 21st chromosome.

Now, the coffee shop is back in business. Before, they were operating out of a small space at the North Carolina State Farmers' Market.

But the old location was due for a makeover. The business was cramped and dark; potential customers could pass it without noticing.

Lindsay Wrege, CEO of 321 Coffee, said she had her eye on expanding the coffee shop before the pandemic.

"COVID hit -- came to Raleigh -- and everything just turned on its head," Wrege said.

She decided to turn the shutdown into an opportunity to work with an interior designer, Jeff Batten, on how to best redo the shop.

Batten donated materials and labor to create a new vibe for 321 Coffee's new space.

"We wanted a space where people could sit and talk and engage," Batten said.

Wrege said the new space will help 321 Coffee provide more job opportunities and enable her to enhance her employees’ individual skills.

321 Coffee is next to one glass door entrance of a retail sales building at the farmers market. With double the space, Batten wanted to make it more visible and inviting.

Wrege says the result was exactly what they needed. It supports the different strengths of the employees, Wrege said, while also creating a better atmosphere.

"We have seating. We have a bigger space, a bigger work space, and we’re also going to start roasting our own beans," Wrege said.

Sophie Pacyna, employee at 321 Coffee, wondered if they would ever get back to brewing.

"I’m so glad it’s still up and running, and I get to work with my friends," Pacyna said.

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