Heartland businesses join forces to help employ people with developmental disabilities

Grace Coffee Shop and Café is soon to be the newest coffee shop in Cape Girardeau, but it’s not just any coffee shop.
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 9:02 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 21, 2023 at 10:14 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Just off Broadway Avenue, in Cape Girardeau, you’ll find dog lovers galore inside Mississippi Mutts, but more recently there’s a baker in the back of the store working on his craft for his future endeavor.

“I bake. That’s me, I’m Chef Adam,” said Adam Essner, Mississippi Mutts baker and Grace Coffee and Café employee.

Both of Essner’s jobs have a connection, which is something Sherry Jennings, the owner of Mississippi Mutts, said is an adventure she has always wanted to be apart of.

“We are super happy to be working with Grace Café and collaborating a little bit,” said Jennings.

Grace Coffee Shop and Café is soon to be the newest coffee shop in Cape Girardeau, but it’s not just any coffee shop.

“We just really had a vision to open a coffee shop, open a café to help employ people with disabilities,” said Samuel Duer, president of Grace Reliant.

Susan Stone and Samuel Duer are the masterminds behind this new business, the President and Vice President of Grace Reliant, a contractor for the State of Missouri.

“We provide employment services to individuals with developmental disabilities,” said Duer.

Stone and Duer said they want to make a difference, and it starts right here in Cape Girardeau.

“We really believe that every person has worth and value and something to contribute. If they are given the right support they can be successful and to see how excited they are to work, earn their own money and to just participate in the community is just amazing,” said Stone.

That’s where Mississippi Mutts comes in.

“The space they have is a little small and they are not going to have a lot of room to do baking there. So we are already set up and I can donate the ingredients and so it’s a win for everybody,” said Duer.

This way Adam can get baking experience all before serving up coffee and treats at Grace Café.

“We’ve recognized Adam in getting to know him, he loves to bake. That is his number one thing. He would bake all day and everyday,” said Stone.

“I bake. It’s a part of my dreams,” said Essner.

For Jennings, this too is a part of her dreams.

“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do for the store. It’s difficult being a very small business, being able to financially do that. So it just warms my heart,” said Jennings.

And once the coffee shop opens, what does the future hold for chef Adam and his co-workers?

“Some may stay long term and some may work a few months and like you said, be poached by another employer and we are going to cheer that on if that is the case,” said Stone.

But until then, you can find Adam at Mississippi Mutts working to become Cape Girardeau’s next greatest baker.

Grace Coffee Shop and Café has a goal of opening May 1, 2023.

You can check out updates on their Facebook page.