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New Austin coffee shop brews opportunity for those with disabilities

A one-of-a-kind coffee shop opened in Austin this week. RunLab on Pressler Street off Cesar Chavez downtown has a new addition to their workout facility and store -- ‘Empowered Coffee.’ (Photo courtesy: Empowered Coffee)

A one-of-a-kind coffee shop opened in Austin this week. RunLab on Pressler Street off Cesar Chavez downtown has a new addition to their workout facility and store -- ‘Empowered Coffee.’

Behind the counter you’ll find friendly faces like 21-year-old William Mullican.

“I love making coffee,” he said.

The new coffee shop is unlike any other in town because it’s operated four days a week by seven young adult employees who all have Down syndrome or Cerebral Palsy.

Even though the coffee shop has only been opened since Tuesday, William’s bosses say he has a shot at being a manager. Saturday will be his fourth shift.

Co-Founders Dr. Kim Davis and her husband Jonathan came up with the idea of opening the coffee shop at RunLab after Kim helped a young woman with Down syndrome in finishing a half marathon in 2017. This year she cut two hours off her overall race time.

“It opened up my mind on all the thing they can really accomplish. We shouldn’t be limiting our thoughts on what they can do,” said Kim.

The only thing slow about Empowered Coffee may be the drip. Kim and Johnathan said they thought up the idea just four weeks ago. They estimate they served roughly five hundred customers in their first three days of business and before they opened they had two offers to expand.

“Our tag line is 'the friendliest way to start your day.' and we really feel strongly that that is what this whole business is about,” said Kim.

Part of the business model is that Empowered Coffee will donate 100 percent of their profits to programs that promote increased physical activity encouraging children and young adults with disabilities.

“A parent of a child with Down syndrome said to me, ‘why are you adapting the working place at all?’ Create a bar and everybody gets over it. The same as you’re hiring a typical adult," Kim said.

Empowered Coffee is opened Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6– 9 a.m. and on Saturday from 7 to 11 a.m.

Luckily for William, he has another job at a local pizza place.

He hopes to one day own his own restaurant. He’s already thought up the name. “William’s Place. Breakfast, lunch and hugs,” he said.

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