A new coffee shop is opening in Sleepy Hollow this fall, and it comes with a meaningful cause. Sleepy Coffee, the coffee business run by kids with developmental disabilities in the Experiential Learning Program at Sleepy Hollow High School, is expanding into a non-profit brick-and-mortar coffee shop, Sleepy Coffee, Too. It’s the brainchild of Kim Kaczmarek, a special ed teacher of 40 years, who launched the original school coffee program in 2016. At the time, she created the coffee service to help students develop both social and workplace skills, from brewing to bookkeeping (not to mention baking brownies, which sell out within minutes in the school).
While the program has been successful in both training students for the workforce and forming connections within the school, seeing her students graduate without many job prospects was frustrating to Kaczmarek. She decided to retire early in June 2021 to kickstart a community venture, and things moved quickly after. “I’m a teacher and not a businesswoman, so I really have been learning from scratch and learning as I go,” she said. “Once I put it out in the universe, things started to fall into place.” Chance conversations and meetings helped propel her idea, and eventually brought her to 110 Beekman Ave., a vacant space on the corner of Cortlandt Street. She quickly got to work and is now waiting on applications to clear before buildout begins.
Many former students have already applied to run the shop. “They are beyond excited,” Kaczmarek said, noting that “they are beaming” in their weekly Zoom calls to discuss the venture. “They are so proud they are going to be a part of this.” Staff will serve a variety of warm and iced drinks including cold brew and espresso as well as baked goods and breakfast casseroles.
Once the shop is open, Kaczmarek hopes other businesses in the area will follow suit in hiring more people with disabilities. “It’s really about showcasing and highlighting how amazing they are. I’m hoping that other employers will take a look and say, ‘Wow, there’s a whole workforce out there that’s untapped.’”
Listen to an interview with Greenburg Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and Kim Kacsmarek on his WVOX radio program by clicking onto the link below:
After hours, programming and social events for disabled people of all ages will be available in the space. “The community has really rallied around us. It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s been so fulfilling and I can’t wait until we are open.”
The coffee shop has a soft launch planned for late summer, with hopes to open in the fall. To help offset the opening costs and building out the space, the non-profit launched a GoFundMe, which you can visit at gofundme.com/f/help-the-disabled-find-meaningful-employment.
For more information about Sleepy Coffee, Too, visit sleepycoffeetoo.org.
All photos provided by Sleepy Coffee, Too.