Kindly Coffee in West Allis aims to create fair-paying jobs for adults with disabilities
A new cafe in West Allis this summer will serve local coffee and food, while providing employment opportunities for adults with disabilities.
Kindly Coffee is set to open June 11 on the ground floor of an office building at 1205 S. 70th St. The building was recently renovated as part of Milwaukee-based Cobalt Partners. Allis shipyards mixed-use development just north of West Greenfield Avenue.
The company’s mission is close to home for founder Sydney Tucker, whose younger sister Emma developed cognitive and physical disabilities as a child. Growing up, Sydney often cared for Emma, who was tied to a wheelchair. On weekends, they liked to hang out together at coffee shops in their hometown of Darien, Illinois. Emma died in 2019 at the age of 16.
Now Tucker is launching Kindly Coffee in honor of his sister’s memory, Tucker’s co-founder and fiancé Dujuan Cherry said in an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee. The idea grew out of a conversation the couple had about how Tucker would honor Emma’s life.
“She said she would create a cafe that would put adults with disabilities first, to showcase their skills, talents and stories and give people perspective on what it’s like to live with a disability” , said Cherry, who is also founder and CEO of AgencyML, a local social media marketing and advertising agency. Tucker has a day job as a Shining Star Christian School teacher.
Kindly Coffee is looking to hire five employees; three of these positions are reserved for people with disabilities. The company works with the Wisconsin chapter of Not wide to recruit and support employees. The organization provides behavioral health and life support services to youth, adults and families, according to its website.
The baristas will be trained by Milwaukee innocuous coffeethe coffee wholesaler.
“They’ve been great working with them so far,” Cherry said. “It’s a different level of training when it comes to people with disabilities, and they just came out of that and said, ‘We love your mission, we love what you do.'”
Anodyne is working with Kindly Coffee to adapt its standard training method so that it is more accessible to employees with different needs. Cherry and Tucker were formally trained to work with people with disabilities while attending college at Concordia University. They served as resident advisors for a program run by AbleLite, formerly known as Bethesda. ARs guided students in developing life skills like doing laundry and paying bills, Cherry said.
In addition to Anodyne Coffee products, Kindly will serve light meals, ranging from breakfast sandwiches to cakes and desserts, all sourced from local producers.
Kindly Coffee has garnered strong support from the surrounding community since Tucker and Cherry pitched the idea to West Allis’ economic development department. The city provided resources for everything from staffing to fundraising and helped Kindly Coffee find housing.
The South 70th Street storefront previously housed Vida Coffee, a cafe run by a group of Marquette University students as part of its Blue and Gold Ventures program. The project was short-lived: it opened in November 2019 and closed a few months later amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Vida left most of his gear behind, which meant the space was essentially turnkey for its next occupant, Cherry said.
“It’s a great place for us as we see West Allis continuing to grow,” he said, commenting on the surrounding development of Allis Yards, including a Home2 Suites Hotel under construction across the street.
“We’re making sure that our mission and the story that we’re trying to tell resonates with our community, and people are starting to see that,” he said.