Editor’s Note: Empowered Coffee shuttered in January 2019 due to a rent hike.
What comes to mind when you think of coffee shops in Austin? Maybe an industrial interior, memorable coffee, latte art, or the barista–that bearded, tattooed, man-bun sporting espresso master. At Empowered Coffee, you will find all of these, except the barista you first envisioned.
This unpretentious coffee shop has one goal: serve a great cup of coffee. No long lines, complicated drinks, or pseudo-intellectual conversations. Empowered Coffee employs adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDDs). The mission is to empower IDD adults by providing meaningful employment and growth opportunities.
Coffee From Wine
Dr. Kim Davis and her husband Jonathan founded Empowered Coffee. Dr. Davis had the opportunity to help Kayleigh, a young woman with Down Syndrome, finish the Austin Half Marathon in 2017. Kayleigh’s commitment impressed Davis tremendously. Over a bottle of wine, she and Jonathan dreamt up a coffee shop, run by adults who have IDDs. Empowered Coffee opened shop two months later!
The impersonal experiences at chain coffee shops brought about the couple’s tag line, “The Friendliest Way to Start Your Day!” Empowered Coffee is fulfilling this mantra.
Empowered Coffee Dream Team
Jonathan Davis attributes a lot of Empowered Coffee’s success to his team leader and general manager, Whitley Priddy. Priddy ensures the coffee shop functions like any other, with the normal ups and downs that arise.
Priddy loves working with IDDs and takes pride in teaching skills to a group of adults. According to her, people with intellectual disabilities don’t have enough resources to gain the life skills they need. So her role at Empowered Coffee is a fantastic opportunity for her to be one such resource. She enables her crew to learn communication skills, manage inventory, and even help with accounting.
Allison Abramo, Program Manager of Supported Employment Program at The Arc of the Capital Area, contributed her expertise to designing training programs for Empowered Coffee employees. Her focus is on creating a work environment that leads to success for both employees and employers.
The employees of Empowered Coffee love working there, so much so that they make the daily to and from Pflugerville. The Davises aid this effort by paying for half of the ride share bill through Lyft.
Because Empowered Coffee is all about empowerment, employees are paid well over the average hourly rate. The coffee shop doesn’t accept tips in the traditional sense. Instead, all tips are donated to Austin-based organizations that support increased physical activity for individuals with special needs.
The Davises and Priddy work hard to make sure employees get the most out of their jobs. The trio spends hours teaching employees important life and job skills, like accounting, operating a POS system, customer service, inventory, and more. Every person’s learning curve is respected.
In addition to being an inclusive workforce for adults with IDDs, the coffee shop tries to be as environmentally friendly as possible. All the coffee is provided by Third Coast Roasters through sustainable sources, is fair trade, and often single origin.
Butter Bombs, a popular supplement produced by local company Lady Bird Provisions, are stored in biodegradable sugarcane containers. Taco Deli provides delicious tacos for purchase. Adry’s Bakeshop, another inclusive workplace in Austin, makes the pastries at a home-based, artisanal bakery.
Small Shop, Big Impact
Despite being only a few months old, Empowered Coffee has already done amazing things for the intellectually disabled community. Employing adults with intellectual disabilities, while leaving special treatment at the door, is fairly exceptional. The team works hard to work with employees in a collaborative fashion.
The owners and manager are always open to help others, especially those who want to start similar ventures. They offer their knowledge to anyone who’s interested, spanning everything from writing job descriptions to training plans.
While the coffee shop has received an outpouring of support from the community through social media, buying a cup of coffee is the best support you can provide. Empowered Coffee is a for-profit business, with the intention of donating profits to organizations that advocate for people with intellectual disabilities.
So get involved with this awesome little coffee shop, and head over for a coffee and taco. The visit will truly start your day in the friendliest way!
410 Pressler St. – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
Have you been to Empowered Coffee, or do you know of other local businesses like it?