A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Covington’s Point Perk coffee shop provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities

By Liz McEwan
Special to NKyTribune from NKY Thrives

Covington has a new community coffee shop, and it’s serving much more than fresh coffee.

Located on the corner of Pike and Washington streets just a block off of the Madison Avenue business district in downtown Covington, Point Perk is positioned for success.

The Point Arc opened Point Perk in December in downtown Covington

The Point Arc opened Point Perk in December in downtown Covington.

The storefront once housed The Point Restaurant and suits the coffee shop nicely, with rows of streetside windows lined with stools for patrons. The bar is outfitted with all you’d expect from a modern coffee shop and offers all the standard caffeinated fare, as well as non-coffee beverages and snacks.

In a metro area filled to the brim with coffee shops, Point Perk holds its own.

Point Perk opened in late 2015 as the newest business endeavor of local nonprofit The Point Arc. This full-service coffee shop is both a high-quality asset for the community and a life-giving employment opportunity for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The mission of The Point Arc is to provide services to people with these disabilities — such as autism, Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome — to help them become active community participants.

The Point Arc is the local chapter of a national nonprofit, The Arc, founded more than 50 years ago. Concerned parents who believed their children with intellectual and developmental disabilities were capable of living fulfilling lives outside of the isolation of institutions founded the organization.

Locally, The Point Arc provides educational services, employment training and job opportunities and social activities and has a residential program for adults.

Point Perk is the fourth of The Point Arc’s NKY job-training business ventures. The organization also manages The Point Commercial Laundry in Dayton, The Point Design and Logo Company in Latonia and The Point Commercial Cleaning.

All are self-sustaining business ventures with a staff consisting of both adults with disabilities and non-disabled managers.

Through these employment programs, participants learn employment skills, good work habits, social skills and teamwork. More than 70 local employers have hired people trained in these programs.

The Point Arc received a grant last fall from the Hatton Foundation to open a new coffee shop in the building across the street from its offices. While it was in the planning phase, Marketing Director Patty Murphy met with local coffee roasters and chose Newport-based Carabello Coffee as its official coffee supplier and partner.

Justin and Emily Carabello have built their own coffee company on a foundation of both a quality product and a philanthropic mission. The company supports various works of compassion in the Third World coffee-producing nations where they purchase their beans.

They personally walked Murphy through the ins and outs of coffee roasting and production, helped her purchase the proper equipment, assisted with marketing and provided training for Point Perk baristas.

“They put in a lot of time toward helping Point Perk get set up out of the goodness of their hearts,” Murphy says. “We are so thankful for them. Carabello Coffee provides our beans, and they stop by often to insure that we are serving high quality drinks.”

Emily Williams (left) is among the barista staff at Point Perk

Emily Williams (left) is a member of the barista staff at Point Perk.

Murphy explains how the business model works.

“We have two baristas trained by Carabello Coffee,” she says. “They do not have disabilities. They create delicious coffee drinks and help train our employees on job and social skills with customers.

Emily Williams is one of the two trained baristas working at Point Perk. She worked as a barista at a different coffee shop for a few years but has a college degree in social work, so when this job became available she thought it was the perfect fit.

“My goal,” she says, “is to have a shop that serves a great product and then people see the mission behind it.”

Quality, she believes, is what brings in the customers but the mission is what will keep them coming back.
“We have five employees who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, and for most of them this is their first paying job,” Murphy said. “They have a checklist that was developed by our supportive employment department at The Point Arc and are supervised and guided by the baristas. They work in customer relations, cleaning, taking orders, taking inventory and some work alongside a barista or volunteer on the point of sale.”

Murphy relates a story about one of the Point Perk employees, Mark, who lives in a Point Arc group home.

“He was working in a sheltered workshop and wanted more of a challenge,” she said. “During our interview with him, we were worried that Point Perk might not be the best fit. He was healing from knee surgery and was very shy and quiet.”
A Point employee who works at his group home, encouraged us to take a chance on him.

“In the past month, his speech has improved. He’s become more social and is a very hard worker,” Murphy said. “Every time I walk into the shop and ask him about his day, he nods his head and says, ‘I love my job.’ He is just one (example) of what can happen if these individuals are given an opportunity to be challenged.”

Point Perk, located at 43 W. Pike St. in Covington is open 7 a.m.-12 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m.-12 p.m. Saturday. Street parking is available nearby.

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