Liam’s Be Cafe Opens in Lowell

We received the following press release from Be Cafe.

The nonprofit organization Be Cafe is excited to announce the opening of their newest location in Lowell. Liam’s Be Cafe is a full service coffee shop, located in The Garden Foundation building at 1150 N. Hudson Street, just North of the Litehouse Family YMCA.

Offerings include espresso drinks, brewed coffee, teas, lattes, smoothies, refreshers, hot chocolate and more. Healthier options and dairy alternatives are available, as well as baked goods provided locally by Sweet Seasons. Coffee beans come from Uncommon Coffee Roasters in Saugatuck.

This will be the fourth Be Cafe to bring “coffee with a purpose” to a West Michigan community. The mission of a Be Cafe is to provide meaningful employment to people with intellectual disabilities.

The original cafe, Brody’s Be Cafe in Ada, employs 20 BEristas and a handful of dedicated coaches. Executive Director Rachel Stadt shared, “We define a Berista as, ‘a person whose job involves preparing and serving different types of coffee–all while inspiring all of us to be confident in our abilities and to be kind.’ I have a stack of applications from people who want to work at a Be Cafe.”

Liam’s Be Cafe is named after 20 year old Lowell resident Liam Doyle who has worked as a Berista at the Ada location for the last 4 years.

“I am so excited,” said Doyle. “I know a lot of people in Lowell and I can’t wait to make them their favorite coffee drink or smoothie. I hope some of my old Ada customers will come visit me here too.”

The grand opening celebration happens on Thursday, March 21. Hours of operation on that day will be 7am-noon and open again from 3-4pm for the dance party.

Stadt shared, “We will ‘rock our socks’ with a dance party starting right at 3:21pm. We hope people will come celebrate with us, see the cafe, try a drink!” The global awareness day on 3/21 signifies the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down Syndrome. Wearing colorful mismatched socks is also a tradition on 3/21, signifying support for people with Down Syndrome.

Stadt continued, “It’s always a huge team effort to get a cafe opened and operating. We had lots of help from generous people at our host location, The Garden Foundation. Godwin Plumbing and many individuals provided their time and expertise to build out the space. West Michigan is amazingly generous and people are inspired by our Beristas. It’s a fabulous thing to be a part of.”

The original Be Cafe concept was the vision of Lowell Middle School English teacher Jenny Cole. Inspired by her son, Brody, who was born with Down syndrome, she wanted a place for people to come together. The founder shared, “I wanted those with an intellectual disability and those without to see that they are not all that different after all.” Brody’s Be Cafe opened in Ada Village on October 31, 2019. Since that time others have created Be Cafes in their communities; Maggie’s Be Cafe in Hudsonville and Kenzie’s Be Cafe in Grand Haven. These two sister cafes are individually owned and operated but share the same mission and vision–bringing much needed jobs and lots of joy into their communities.

A fifth Be Cafe is also in the works and will be located in Gaslight Village, East Grand Rapids. The East GR location, which is next door to Jersey Junction Ice Cream, is expected to open by late Spring.

Stadt speaks passionately about employing individuals with a developmental or intellectual disability, “We know what they are capable of and it’s more than many people may think. They need to be given opportunities to grow, just like you and me.” The Be Cafe vision doesn’t just stop at a coffee counter. “Some of our employees are ready and able to take the skills and confidence they have gained here into the broader marketplace. We hope more and more businesses follow our lead. We know that approximately 80% of this population is not employed. We hope to be a catalyst to change that.”

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