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Disabled workers ready to open new Lake Geneva coffee shop
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Disabled workers ready to open new Lake Geneva coffee shop

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A downtown Lake Geneva coffee shop offering job-training skills to people with disabilities is ready to open for business.

Inspired Coffee, located at 833 W. Main St., is scheduled to open June 23 after a long delay.

The coffee shop, which is operated by Inspiration Ministries, was scheduled to open in mid-April, but the opening was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Erik Barber, president of Inspiration Ministries, said he is excited that the coffee shop will be open soon, after what he described as three years of planning.

“It’s surreal at this point,” he said. “We’re excited to see the details come together.”

Inspiration Ministries is a Christian-based living facility for people with disabilities in the town of Walworth.

The nonprofit organization has signed a five-year lease with Inland Real Estate Group LLC of Oak Brook, Illinois, to occupy the Main Street building, which has been vacant since 2015.

The building previously housed Caribou Coffee shop from 2011 to 2014 and Peet’s coffee shop from 2014 to 2015.

The new Inspired Coffee will employee 19 people with disabilities who will work as baristas, cashiers and greeters. Four managers will train and supervise the workers.

General manager Jessie Bongiorno said the employees will learn skills that will help them socially and also help them obtain future employment.

“They’re learning how to greet customers and how to handle customers’ concerns,” Bongiorno said. “They’re learning how to work as a team.”

The employees will work at the coffee shop for at least a year, then Inspiration Ministries representatives will work to help them find new job opportunities with other local agencies or businesses.

Lisa Slattery-Brochtrup, training development coordinator for Inspired Coffee, said she is confident that employees will be ready for opening day when the coffee shop opens to the public.

“They’ve come a long way in their training,” Slattery-Brochtrup said.

Barber said staff is in the process of finishing remodeling work to the interior of the building, installing furniture and doing some extra cleaning before the planned open date.

“We’re just tying up some loose ends,” he said.

With the grand opening, the coffee shop will enforce social distancing and safety guidelines to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Bongiorno said customers will be required to wear face masks, and markers will be placed on the floor for social distancing. A hand sanitizing station will be placed at the coffee shop’s entrance.

Employees will be required to wear face masks and gloves.

Staff members began training at the store in late March, and after the coronavirus pandemic spread, training was continued virtually over the internet.

During the past two weeks, employees have been training one-on-one with coordinators at the coffee shop to better understand their job responsibilities.

“They’re at that point where they’re at that next step,” Bongiorno said. “They know what their roles will be, and they’re ready to greet customers.”

Slattery-Brochtrup said she has enjoyed working with the employees.

“They’re super excited to be working in the community and learning new skills that will help them in a thriving environment,” she said.

Inspired Coffee will offer hot and cold coffee drinks, iced tea, frappes and snack items.

“All of our coffee is roasted locally,” Bongiorno said. “It’s great coffee.”

The facilities will include a fireplace, a comfortable seating area, and a meeting room.

“It will be a neat space,” Bongiorno said.

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