There is a new coffee house opening in Lexington, Kentucky, they plan to serve a lot more than coffee.
Retired pastor Brewster McLeod has hired 50 employees, all with special needs, to work at his new cafe McLeod’s Coffee House. He hopes that the staffing decision not only blesses and serves those with special needs, but also those who come into the shop.
“If Down syndrome or special needs make you nervous,” he told WKYT News in an interview, “you probably need to come in here and relax and just treat them like anyone else.”
The Backstory: Mcleod Coffee House
For over 40 years McLeod served at Southland Christian Church as a pastor, but the idea to open a coffee shop has been brewing for a while.
The employees, who he refers to as VIPs, are trained to know how to perform every job in the cafe, from washing dishes to managing the cash register.
“They got joy, they got heart, they want to work,” McLeod said.
Not only is McLeod working to provide employment to people that are often overlooked, but he is creating an environment where people of all backgrounds feel welcome and comfortable.
Megan Gaines, an employee at McLeod’s who was born with spina bifida and is paralyzed from the waist down, shared with WKYT how other businesses could learn from the accessibility emphasized in the cafe, allowing people with disabilities the same enjoyable experience as anyone else.
“I’m exactly like anybody else. I can do the same things you can do I just may do things differently,” Gaines said. “We still wanna have friends, we still wanna do things, we still wanna go out and hang out with our friends, and just do normal stuff.”
There is a need for “ramps or wider open spaces, wider open walkways, accessible bathrooms,” Megan explained, sharing how McLeod’s is focusing on accommodating for these elements.
“My prayer is that everyone on Southland Drive, they come over here for a good cup of coffee, hot chocolate, iced tea, diet coke, and a sandwich and then meet Megan or they meet Jeremy and someone may stop me and say, ‘Brewster, can you tell me about Jeremy? Could he give me two hours at the gas station?’” McLeod shared with WKYT.
Juannell Spotts, the cafe manager, appreciates the approach McLeod is taking to make the spot a space where those with special needs can thrive.
“It allows me to have a place for [his sons] when they get older and need a place to work,” Spotts shared. “My sons having autism, that is something I’ll be able to do.”
McLeod has had the idea to open a cafe staffed by people with special needs for five years now. He has always felt deeply for their community, launching a “Jesus prom” at Southland Church years ago.
“I don’t do it for that pat on the back because that can be very addicting. I do it because I really care about them and I know that they are gifted,” McLeod said. “I just want them to know they have great value.”
If you want to help get McLeod’s Coffee House off the ground, you can donate to give them a hand here.
The cafe is set to open in early October. You can find more information on McLeod’s Coffee Shop here.