Brewing Java To Support the Special Needs Community

by | Mar 2, 2020 | EAT DRINK

For Charles and Ashley Grant of Grant Coffee Company, their recently-opened coffee shop offers not just an opportunity to bring great coffee to Chester but also to help people with developmental disabilities.

Grant Coffee Company owners Charles and Ashley Grant are brewing up mugs of coffee and opportunities for Chester’s special needs community. A crowd eager to support both product and mission poured in for the shop’s grand opening last month. 

With a combined professional background including military service, law enforcement, and programing for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD), the Grants wanted to pool their work experience and pursue a new venture. In surveying the needs of their community, they recognized a deficiency in opportunities for those with special needs. 

People within the special needs community — like their own daughter, who has autism — often struggle to find workspaces that utilize all of their capabilities. The Grants hope to curb that trend by teaching job skills in their shop and by providing a safe environment for all to come and enjoy the coffee. 

Photo by Sharon Hippensteel Photography

“We hope that the coffee shop becomes an inclusive space for the community,” said Ashley. “We want the space to be a naturally supportive environment for those who may struggle to adapt to traditional settings that most of us buzz through daily, and a place for them and their families to know that they are welcome without judgement.” 

Ashley, an I/DD program development manager for Good Neighbor, knows what it takes to provide a supported environment that helps overcome stressful barriers in a social or workplace setting. She has thoughtfully guided design decisions to ensure a space that is not overstimulating, but is comfortable and inviting. Wooden toys and sensory items will be placed around the shop to engage and calm visitors. 

During normal operating hours, the coffee shop will be open for everyone to come and enjoy a cup of Joe. When closed, the coffee shop will become a training center for individuals to come and partner with employment support providers and learn new skills, like making coffee, greeting customers, or bussing tables. Eventually, the Grants hope to host live sessions where the community is welcome to come and interact with students practicing job skills. 

“We hope we can use this setting for our daughter to be able to teach others how to meet her in her world, and see her strengths and talents on her terms,” said Ashley. 

Photo by Sharon Hippensteel Photography

The Grants say that their daughter is a primary motivation in cultivating this space. They know from experience what it’s like to love and interact with someone who takes in the world differently. 

“In both my personal and professional life, it is astounding the number of times I hear, ‘I’m sorry, that must be so difficult for you,’” said Ashley. “No, it’s difficult for her to teach us to know her in a language no one speaks, and in ways very few can understand.”

Charles and Ashley hope that the space will be a teaching ground not just for those with disabilities, but for others learning to engage the special needs community. 

“We hope to teach other kids to say, ‘Hey, want to play?’ We hope to teach parents to say, ‘Go ask them. They just do things differently,’” said Ashley. 

After sampling multiple coffee roasters, the Grants, both coffee lovers, settled on Legacy Roasting out of Hopewell. Their blend of choice produces a balanced coffee that has hints of chocolate, malt, and citrus. 

Photo by Sharon Hippensteel Photography

In addition to the java, the Grants offer a breakfast and light lunch menu. They’ve partnered with local bakers for fresh pastries and breads. They also plan to spotlight local artisans and offer products like unique coffee sleeves, handmade wooden trays, and Goochland honey. 

Grant Coffee Company is located at 11884 Chester Village Dr in Chester VA. It is open Monday through Friday from 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM and Saturday from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

Top Photo by Sharon Hippensteel Photography

Madison Hetzler

Madison Hetzler

Madison is a writer, reader, and enthusiastic home cook who relishes the opportunity to gather people around a table. She holds a Bachelor's in Finance and a Master's in Theological Studies, and lives on Richmond's south side with her husband, Josh.

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