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New coffee shop opening soon in downtown Lake Geneva
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New coffee shop opening soon in downtown Lake Geneva

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A coffee shop that specializes in employing people with disabilities is now taking applications, and it plans to start serving java to the public by mid-April.

Inspired Coffee, 833 W. Main St., will provide job-skills training to its employees, and it will offer coffee, smoothies and bakery items to its customers.

Lake Geneva’s latest coffee spot is being opened by Inspiration Ministries, a Christian-based living facility for individuals with disabilities in the town of Walworth.

Eric Barber, president of Inspiration Ministries, said he hopes to begin hiring for the 30 available positions within the next couple of weeks, and he plans to begin training March 1.

About 40 people have already applied for jobs at Inspired Coffee. Positions will be available to high school-age students and adults who live within the Lake Geneva area.

Inspiration Ministries is working with Tri-C Career Services LLC in Delavan to help interview and screen candidates.

“Ideally, we would like to get them within a month or a month and a half,” Barber said, “so by the time we open the doors, they have some good experiences and a lot of training.”

Barber said he is pleased with the number of candidates who have applied for positions. He said some of the applicants have been referred by family members, area schools and service agencies that work with people who have disabilities.

Maria Nelson, co-owner of Tri-C Career Services, said her company will review the candidates’ referral forms, have them complete a questionnaire and conduct an initial interview.

Nelson said Inspiration Ministries will make the final decision on which candidates will be hired to work at Inspired Coffee.

“There’s nothing like it in the area,” Nelson said. “It will definitely benefit residents with disabilities.”

Inspiration Ministries recently hired Jessie Bongiorno of Elkhorn as a general manager for the coffee shop. Barber said Bongiorno will be responsible for the overall operations of the business.

Barber said Bongiorno previously worked as a store manager for a Starbuck’s coffee in Kenosha.

“She’s experienced and is going to be an incredible face for our coffee shop,” Barber said. “She’s a very relatable person who is going to work really well with our employees.”

Barber said he is in the process of hiring talent development managers to train the employees at Inspired Coffee. He said the talent development managers will need previous experience working with people with disabilities.

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“Ultimately, we need to make sure they can work with the employees, help motivate them and help them achieve their goals and aspirations, as well,” Barber said.

The employees at the coffee shop either will serve as baristas, cashiers or greeters. Barber said the employees will be assigned to their positions based on their skills and abilities.

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

“The goal is for this to be a launching pad for people not a landing pad for them forever,” Barber said.

Merik Fell, director of development for Inspiration Ministries, said some employees may remain at the coffee shop if they are unable to find other types of employment.

“We know there will be some people that will stick it out at Inspired,” Fell said, “but the goal is work with them through the process and plug them into another job within the community.”

Inspiration Ministries also is in the process of completing its fundraising campaign to help pay for the coffee shop’s start-up costs, equipment, furnishings and building renovations.

About $350,000 of the group’s $400,000 goal has been raised. Fell said Inspiration Ministries has received donations from local residents, organizations and businesses. He said he is pleased with the support that the coffee shop has received and hopes to have the rest of the money raised by mid-April.

“It’s been neat to see the community rally around this to make it happen,” Fell said.

Residents or organizations that are interested in donating funding may contact Fell at 262-275-6131 ext. 211 or visit www.InspiredCoffee.org.

Renovations will be completed to the building during the next few weeks including electrical work, flooring and painting.

Barber said they also plan to install a conference room which could be use for meetings, community events and staff training.

Inspiration Ministries recently signed a five-year lease from Inland Real Estate Group LLC of Oak Brook, Illinois to occupy the Main Street building, which as been vacant since 2015.

The building previously was the location for a Caribou Coffee shop from 2011 and 2014 and Peet’s coffee shop from 2014 and 2015.

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