WESTBROOK – “Amazing, humbling, overwhelming,” says Julie Campbell, describing the first year at Julie’s Cup of Joe, a unique shop that boasts more than just unique ice cubes made of actual coffee. It’s also a family-run business with a social conscience.
“It’s kind of how we’re all supposed to be, just nice, just nice,” says this mother of two. The shop employs several people with disabilities and serves as training ground for special needs students in the transition program at three area high schools.
Julie – who has a history of working with people with disabilities – says about twenty people got work experience in the last twelve months. “Now I have a system, now I have laminated cards that have tasks on them and each student has their name on the side of the fridge with a clothespin, so, they come in and right from the minute they walk in the door, they’re responsible,” she explains, noting that ability abounds. “I’ve always said from the beginning, everyone can do something.”
She stands by the saying on the back of the store’s shirts. “We have a Mother Theresa quote that says, ‘If you judge people, you have no time to love them. So, inside here, we don’t judge,” says Julie with emotion.
The community learns, too, about how productive the employees and students can be. “Most of the customers that come in are aware of our mission, so, the overwhelming reaction is positive and supportive and understanding,” says Julie’s husband, Joe.
“I’m so grateful. We hoped it would be all that it is, it’s actually turned out to be more than we’d ever hoped for,” says Julie. Here, there’s a commitment to “local” – find locally made donuts, bagels even art work. It’s also about helping those who live in the area find confidence, skill and pride. “Here at the coffee shop, we feel that it’s not us and them,” says Julie. “We’re all blending together as a community and it’s amazing absolutely amazing.”