At first sip, Lucky Ones Coffee (1255 Park Ave, 252.531.8204) has all of the hipster trappings you’d expect: whooshing espresso machine, clicking laptops, tea-infused banter, and alluring pink-frosted doughnuts. But this cheery space, located in the Park City Library, adds a shot of genuine joy, thanks to a can-do team of baristas—all adults with disabilities.
The brainchild of two former National Ability Center employees, Katie Holyfield and Taylor Matkins, Lucky Ones has served up inclusiveness since its St. Patrick’s Day opening last year. Inspired by Bitty & Beau’s, a coffee shop in Matkins’s hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, Lucky Ones used $22,000 in crowdfunding to chip away at the 70 percent unemployment rate faced by their employees’ peers nationwide.
“We learn so much from these guys,” says Holyfield, explaining that the coffee shop’s name tries to break the stigma that working with the disabled population is an act of charity. “We are the lucky ones to get to work with them and learn from them.”
One of those instructors is Anna Lillquist. A few months ago, she avoided eye contact and was too shy to speak. Now, Lillquist, who whips up a mean chai latte and has cerebral palsy, is training other employees and offering up tips like meditation to avoid stress. Her favorite part of the job? “I like to talk to customers,” she says with a big smile.
“Their enthusiasm level is off the charts,” says Hugo Coffee Roasters owner and former county councilmember Claudia McMullin, who has mentored the Lucky Ones entrepreneurs. “They are 1,000 percent lovable, and all you want to do is support them.”