A first of its kind local business is under construction in Lake City.
In The Loop Café is preparing to open in just a few weeks and the staff is hard at work training to become professional baristas. The unique café is a joint effort being led by young adults who are passionate about inclusion and creating an environment that caters to the Neurodiverse community.
“Our baristas are autistic and they are being trained by a seasoned pro on how to make the very best coffee,” said Ben Wahl, who started Ryther’s aspiring youth program in 2006 that is now the largest provider in the region for social skills groups and therapeutic summer programs for young people who are quirky, shy, have Autism or are “Autism Adjacent.”
Ryther is a non-profit leader in behavioral health services for over 130 years, and Wahl says the latest effort is a partnership that will truly foster a community of inclusion that hopes to be model for more businesses.
Thrive Seattle Living in an innovative housing program for young adults with autism or other similar traits who are ready to learn how to live independently. The first Micro apartment community is now open in Lake City and some of the residents are training to work a few floors below at In the loop café.
“We call it the elevator commute,” laughs Wahl, saying several baristas in training live in the building and will get to work and live independently thanks to many generous partnerships. The building owner provided 6 months of free, fully furnished rent.
Seattle’s Espresso Vivace is widely considered one of the foremost espresso experts in the country and is providing the hands on training for the cafe’s baristas. Co-founder David Schomer is personally training several people and says his father and son are on the spectrum and he knows how well they can perform when they are given an opportunity to engage in something they’re passionate about.
“My son is an example of someone who is very capable of enhanced focus so I know the significance of this training,” Schomer said.
PJ Au is an actress, model, musician and a passionate advocate for the Neurodiverse community and will be a part of the new café house band “The Neurodivergents.”
“I was diagnosed with autism around 6 years old and have hyperlexia which is like the opposite of dyslexia,” Au said.
PJ was able to read and spell beyond her age but comprehension suffered. She’s come a long way and serves as an inspiration to many in the community. PJ is now married and a successful model and entertainer with a passion for empowering others as an autistic influencer on social media.