TAMPA, Fla. — There’s a different kind of coffee shop that’s opening up soon in South Tampa.
It’s a nonprofit that employs people with intellectual disabilities and gives them a safe and stable place to work while whipping up some delicious coffee.
For one of its baristas, Katie Huettle, her joy at doing this is pretty infectious.
She’s 24 years old, and loves acting and the theater, but when you talk with her, that’s only really scratching the surface of what she enjoys.
“I do voice acting too, so that’s also something that’s night job and stuff,” Huettle said. “So, I’m busy. I want to be busy.”
That’s why she’s inside Bayside Baptist Church, because she’s working at what she calls her day job, being a barista at CUP, which stands for Coffee Uniting People.
Even though she has autism, she’s able to thrive thanks to places like CUP. Whether it’s making coffee or personalized pictures on each cup.
“You know how sometimes with coffee shops, they will be like, they’ll write your name and they’ll put a little like a hard or a smiley face or something,” Huettle said. “That’s kind of what I’m doing.”
CUP is a nonprofit that gives people with intellectual disabilities stable work and a welcoming environment to thrive.
It’s currently operating two days a week in Bayside Baptist in South Tampa until their first store opens on South Dale Mabry.
“You can go to any other coffee shop and probably buy a cup of coffee, just like ours,” said Greg Jones, president of CUP. “But when you come to cup and you support us, you’re not going to just be buying a cup of coffee, but you’re going to be supporting these great, wonderful people.”
Jones has seen this thing from its very conception about 14 months ago and says they hope to have about 40 employees by the time their first shop opens in a couple months.
“The support has been, it’s been phenomenal in the message we get the phone calls, the emails from the moms and dads and brothers and sisters,” Jones said. “It’s just been heartwarming, to say the least.”
Because he says this type of workplace is desperately needed in our state.
“There’s a large portion of the disability population, about 80%, that are unemployed in Florida,” Jones said. “We’re going to try to tackle that.”
And they’re doing just that with each cup at CUP.
“It’s fun,” Huettle said. “It’s personalized, you know, it’s not just like, here’s my cup of Joe.”
Katie and her co-workers will soon do more than just coffee. They’ll be able to whip up lattes, Frappuccino’s; you name it, they’ll brew it.
At CUP, each drink here means just a little more.
“We all feel supported and like, you know, like with, you know, with all of our abilities it’s nice that we’re understood,” Huettle said.
These caffeinated drinks are created with care from people who care so much about every cup they create.
CUP’s store will open on S. Dale Mabry in late February or early March.