HUNTSVILLE, Ala.- There’s a new coffee shop in Huntsville and it has a unique business model. Charlie Foster’s is dedicated to serving high quality coffee and providing employment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Charlie Foster’s is located at Stovehouse, the popular food and entertainment complex in West Huntsville.
Co-owner Austin Jenkins says he took up coffee as a hobby then later convinced his wife to start up a business with him.
Jenkins wants Charlie Foster’s to be a place where people find community and great coffee. “We just want to have an atmosphere in here that’s fun, we want people to hang out and get to know our community,” says Jenkins.
But the Mission of Charlie Foster’s goes beyond coffee. “I thought it would be cool to have a coffee shop that had an interesting business model and we decided on employing people with special needs,” says Jenkins.
Charlie Foster’s hosted a soft opening celebration in mid January to help its employees adjust before a big rush. “We’re keeping someone here with special needs one at a time right now throughout the whole day, but that’s not what we plan to do. We plan to have as many people as we can here we’ve just got to figure some things out behind the scenes”
Charlie Foster’s employs 10 individuals who are differently abled, that’s about half of the staff.
“By employing people with special needs it gives us a purpose to be here. We’re an all inclusive coffee shop and the best thing about it is we realized when you give someone with special needs a job it’s their job and you can’t stop them from doing it,” says Jenkins.
Jenkins has been around special needs individuals for most of his life, through his involvement in Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center. Jenkins parents founded Merrimack Hall, a Huntsville nonprofit focused on providing arts education to children and adults with special needs.
Charlie Foster’s namesake also comes from Merrimack Hall. In the early 1900s, the Merrimack building was a textile mill. Charlie Foster was one of the many children who worked at the mill.
Charlie Foster’s grand opening celebration will be Saturday January 30th.