PORTLAND -- In Northeast Portland, the morning shift is underway at Happy Cup Coffee company.
“I'm stamping bags,” says Dustin Pack as he looked up from using an ink stamp to put his name and date on paper bags which will soon be filled with coffee.
“It’s kinda fun. I like it,” he says.
Many of the workers here are like Dustin or Suanne McFarlan, an adult with special needs who lives in a group home. “It’s gonna say packed by Suanne," she says with a smile. Each bag carries her personal commitment to quality.
Rachel Bloom founded Happy Cup Coffee nine months ago. She's aware there are other coffee companies in town. “There's 50 at least. Growing,” she says. But she says her company is different.
“We have a mission, to employ people. I think that always sells more,” Bloom says. She has a heart for those with mental and physical challenges. Bloom has a master’s degree in special education and spent 8 years working as a Special Ed teacher.
She knew only 25% of people with mental challenges go to work each day. She wanted to change that. “This is the fun part. After everyone is 21 and older, what do they do? They want to go to work just like you and I and so that's where we come in," she says.
Besides the roasting operation, Happy Cup has a coffee shop at 3331 NE Sandy Boulevard.
Professionals like Tray Erwin create the lattes and appreciate the clients with special needs. “I think there’s a significant lack of ego here,” he said. “It’s a very honest environment. It’s also an environment that really tries to foster creativity," Erwin says. The results are displayed for all to see on the walls of the coffee shop. It is art created by clients with mental challenges but no roadblocks to their potential.
Back at the roaster the morning shift is winding down. The coffee will be delivered to New Seasons and Whole Foods retail stores around the greater Portland area. Happy Cup started 9 months ago and has yet to turn a profit but they intend to. “We do! Hopefully in six months!” said Bloom, the founder.
It’s a happy thought at Happy Cup, a coffee company serving up much more than good caffeine.