Anastasia Rockwell and Katie Duffy, both 13, are the inspiration behind Anastasia and Katie’s Coffee Shop & Café – a new, hip and inclusive coffee shop in Livonia.
Both of these local teens have Down Syndrome and their parents, who met at a parents of people with Down Syndrome support group, want to make sure they are getting the same employment opportunities as those without developmental disabilities.
We spoke with Anastasia’s mom, Kelly Rockwell, a co-founder of the coffee shop and the president of Mi Work Matters – a non-profit organization that helps people with developmental disabilities find jobs – to get the scoop on this new inclusive workplace.
The importance of an inclusive workplace
Anastasia and Katie’s Coffee Shop & Café opened on December 2, 2019, after Rockwell, along with the shop’s other co-founders, Katie’s dad, Dan Duffy, and Gale Wilcox, Anastasia’s great-aunt, saw the need for a space that hired people of all abilities.
“The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is really, really high. It’s 80%” Rockwell says. “We don’t want their hopes and dreams to come to a halt when they get out of school.”
The vision for the shop was to create an inclusive workplace that bring people with and without developmental disabilities together to in the same environment.
“There’s a large percentage of the world that has a disability, whether you can see it or not,” she explains. “The more people you’re exposed with, the more people you can connect with.”
This is why it’s important for parents to bring their kids around people with developmental disabilities, she says. Kids are bound to have questions and she encourages parents to allow their child to ask them as people with developmental disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, typically don’t mind that and would rather you ask them questions.
“Say it’s OK to ask, just be friendly and approachable,” she says. “People prefer to have a question asked directly to them than to be ignored.”
About the shop
So far, Anastasia and Katie’s Coffee Shop & Café has been a hit with customers and employees, which Rockwell says is exciting because the process to opening the shop was a long one.
“We probably took over a year from beginning to end, between coming up with the budget, fundraising, getting the plan and the build out,” she says.
The shop, which is located at 19215 Merriman in Livonia, offers a menu of coffees, light food items and seasonal flavorings.
“We have all of the coffee items on the menu you would expect coffee, chai tea and mocha,” Rockwell says. “We also have simple breakfast items, such as bagels with cream cheese, egg sandwiches, avocado toast and muffins and a lunch menu with soup and sandwiches right now.”
The menu changes weekly and they plan on expanding the menu to include salads.
The shop is open 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday and is only the first step in the team’s overall vision for inclusivity in the workplace. Next, they’ll look toward partnering with other employers to act as a liaison between businesses and families.
“We would also like to help other people become employers,” Rockwell adds. That way everyone is getting equal opportunities and no one, no matter their ability, is getting left out.