MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. (CBS) – A coffee shop in South Jersey with a business model of inclusion will celebrate its one-year anniversary in December.
In a world with no shortage of coffee shops, Breaking Grounds in Mount Holly, New Jersey manages to live up to its name.
For founder and operator Brandi Fishman, opening the shop was very much uncharted territory.
“I never in a million years thought this was what I would be doing at this stage in my life,” she said.
To start, Fishman got her favorite coffee shop on board. Harvest Coffee Roastery in nearby Medford not only supplies the beans, but trains the staff.
“The entire community has really rallied around us to make sure that we’re successful,” Fishman said.
But why would one business offer to help a potential competitor? It’s a simple reason that goes deeper than profits. The heart of this business isn’t coffee, it’s people like Kristin Haynie, 22. Kristin is an exceptional employee who just so happens to have a developmental disability, like many of her co-workers at Breaking Grounds.
“Breaking Grounds is owned by the Zefer Foundation, which I founded in 2015, and it is a non-profit coffee shop designed to employ adults with developmental disabilities,” Fishman said. “We have 14 people on the payroll right now here, and I can probably count on one hand the amount of call-outs we’ve had in the past year, so they really do take their job very seriously.”
Kristin gives her all to the job and in return, gets just as much back.
“It makes me feel good and that I’m able to do stuff myself,” she said. “To have money and to be around people and to interact with people and have friends.”
It’s that emphasis on people that turns first-time customers into regulars, though a quality product helps too.
“Actually I came in because I wanted to support a local business, now I’m addicted to the coffee,” said Aileen Wells of Mount Holly. “I didn’t like coffee before this.”
In the middle of the quaint Mill Race Village, a coffee novice inspired by her own daughter, who is multiply disabled, managed to craft the perfect blend of compassion and opportunity.
“A lot of our regular customers come in and they say it’s soul-cleansing,” Fishman said. “They come here, we feed the body and nourish the spirit.”
It’s a cup of coffee that will make you feel really good.
“If you’re going to spend a dollar, why not do both, get what you need and help somebody else out at the same time?” asked Dwynne Belton, another regular from Mount Holly.
Breaking Grounds also has artwork displayed for sale, created by young artists with disabilities. The art is so popular that the Zefer Foundation’s next venture will be an art gallery called the Zefer Art Alliance. To find out more about the Zefer Foundation, visit its website.