From the very first day Beau’s Coffee opened its doors, the unique java joint has been flooded with community support.
Since that support comes in the form of customers, the cozy shop has remained, in a word, crowded since it launched in January.
That’s about to change.
Thanks to a generous donation from a loyal patron, local car dealership owner Allen Rippy Jr., Beau’s is getting a new home that not only significantly increases space but also provides even more opportunities to spread its mission to create inclusive workplaces.
And it’s a move owner Amy Wright never saw coming.
Next month, Beau’s will reopen in the Rippy family’s former Hummer dealership on New Centre Drive, a building 10 times the size of the shop’s current 500 square feet.
“Allen has become a regular around Beau’s Coffee,” Wright said. “One day, he said, ‘You know, we’ve had that Hummer building sitting there unused for a number of years. You guys need more space, so why don’t you use it?’”
Although an exciting idea, turning a 5,000-square-foot dealership into a site suited to serving up some joe was a bit overwhelming, Wright admitted.
“My first thought was, how are we going to outfit this space?” she recalled.
Enter Thomas Construction, which Wright said immediately stepped up to do the work for free. The company has also enlisted the help of subcontractors wanting to volunteer their services, as well.
That willingness to help means a lot to Wright, who, with her family in mind, opened Beau’s in January in an effort to provide job opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The Wrights’ two youngest children, 11-year-old Beau–for whom the coffee shop is named–and six-year-old Bitty, have Down Syndrome.
Realizing the challenges Beau and Bitty may face in the future, last year Wright founded Able to Work USA, a national initiative aimed at pairing individuals with IDD and businesses willing to hire them. She said currently about 85 percent of adult Americans living with IDD are unemployed. Beau’s, a 501(c)(3), operates under the non-profit Able to Work.
“We have not had to spend one dime on advertising, and yet we are busy every single day. And it’s because people are just talking about it and sharing their experience on social media,” Wright said.
She doesn’t take that collective embrace for granted, and is hoping the new Beau’s will be a way to say thanks to all those who have given the concept so much.
“This feels like the perfect opportunity to give back to the community,” Wright noted.
The New Centre building allows for a private meeting space, which will available for free to companies and organizations who want to reserve it. There will also be a designated “quiet area,” Wright added, for those who want to read, work or study.
And there will be ample room for Beau’s to expand its currently limited assortment of goodies delivered daily from local company Farmin’ Brand. While coffee drinkers can still pick up a fresh-made pastry, Wright said she will add even more from Farmin’, including gelato from its Carolina Creamery, breakfast and lunch sandwiches and salads.
Most importantly, a bigger Beau’s means more employees. Wright plans to double the current staff of 19, and is going to hold an open house job fair once the shop is open on New Centre.
While the move will mean the existing Beau’s on Wrightsville Avenue will close, Wright said in the long run, the consolidation will help her ultimate goal of expanding within Wilmington and across the country. It’s a plan already in the works, since Wright has gotten calls from interested people across the country and even gotten the attention of celebrity Rachael Ray, who featured Beau’s on her daytime talk show just two months after the coffee shop opened.
“This will be our headquarters, and we can train other people who want to open a Beau’s and eventually expand, even in Wilmington,” she said.
With everything falling neatly and quickly into place, Wright feels certain the one piece lacking—furnishings—will follow suit, as well. Just yesterday, she launched an online fundraising campaign to raise $25,000 to outfit the shop at 4949 New Centre Drive and had collected close to $1,000 in a few hours’ time.
“I have faith that will all come together,” she said. “We’ll be there next month, no matter what, and it will all come together.”
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.