Middlesex County

Effort underway in Melrose to open new café for developmentally disabled workers who were laid off

MELROSE, Mass — Many people in the Melrose area were devastated when Bitty and Beau’s Coffee shop, a national chain that hires workers with developmental disabilities, abruptly closed a shop on Main Street earlier this year.

All the workers there lost their jobs.

Workers with developmental disabilities experience one of the highest rates of unemployment. It’s estimated to be over 30%.

Now the families of the workers as well as the Boys and Girls Club of Stoneham & Wakefield are developing plans to open a new coffee shop with the same mission. It will be called The INspire Café.

Part of the plan is operating a slush pop-up on Main Street in Wakefield this summer to raise money.

Workers like Daniel Gill took the closing of Bitty and Beau’s hard. “A little bit depressed,” he said.

Another worker, Brady Maher said, “I was shocked, I was mad about it.”

Damon Kruppa worked at Bitty and Beau’s as a shift manager along with his sister Mia.

“It was devastating when the shop closed, and all of the workers would come up and ask what’s next and we didn’t have a solution.”

The rising senior at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester is now the business development manager for the project. So far, about $30,000 has been raised towards opening the new café. The goal is $75,000.

Janis Mamayek’s son worked at Bitty and Beau’s and she is now the president of the board of directors for the new non-profit. “We always believed in having a place for bridging and belonging. Bridging to the community so we all are familiar with different abilities, and just belonging, because our guys shine when they are together.”

This is venture is also about giving these workers a sense of self-worth.

Maher added, “I know that my parents are all proud of me, my sisters as well, and my future brother-in-law. And I know I can’t wait for the new coffee shop to open up.”

Adam Rodgers, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Stoneham & Wakefield, said the goal is to make the new café sustainable and permanent.

He thinks everyone in the area will be a winner if they are able to turn slush into coffee because it shows that everyone is welcome in the community.

The slush stand operates from Tuesday thru Saturday.

Bitty and Beau’s corporate office wouldn’t comment on why the Melrose store was closed but told Boston 25 News they’re looking for a new location in Boston proper.

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