By Kristen Yee
An area coffee shop known for its employment of adults with disabilities is reaching out for donations from the Palo Alto community amid rising labor and rent costs.
Ada’s Cafe – a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit – aims to raise $300,000 by the first quarter of 2019, which founder Kathleen Foley-Hughes says would be enough to get the cafe through the second quarter.
A increase in Mountain View’s minimum wage to $15 per hour – a decision made by Mountain View’s City Council in 2015 to take effect by Jan. 1, 2018 – contributed to mounting financial burdens for the cafe, which has locations in San Francisco and Palo Alto but kitchens in Mountain View. Vendors accommodating the rising wages have also raised their prices.
“Our linens went up $50 from one week to the next,” Foley-Hughes said.
Additionally, the rent for the kitchens increased by nearly 130 percent after a former landlord sold the building, Foley-Hughes said. That increased pressure came amid a much larger crunch across Silicon Valley that has seen rents skyrocket while wages lag behind.
“Running a food business in the SF Bay Area is challenging,” Foley-Hughes writes on the cafe’s website.
Ada’s Cafe was born back in 2003 when Foley-Hughes’ son, Charlie Hughes, was a student in a special day class at nearby Terman Middle School (recently renamed Fletcher Middle School). While he was there, Foley-Hughes noticed a marked opportunity gap between her son’s classmates and their peers.
“We asked the principal of Terman if we could start something, if we could start a little cafe,” she said. “I didn’t call it a vocational education program then; I didn’t realize … until after that that’s what we were doing. I just wanted to create an opportunity for kids to feel like they were part of the community.”
Later, the program moved with Hughes to Gunn High School after he graduated eighth grade. From there, Foley-Hughes sought to bring the cafe’s ethos to the surrounding community, establishing Ada’s Cafe to continue the mission of breaking down barriers faced by individuals with disabilities.
“I’ve gotten to do basically everything,” Hughes said. “I know how to make a sandwich; I know how to make cup of coffee; I know how to make lattes.”
Ada’s Cafe employee Anna Rubinfien, a New York native, felt like she found a home at the cafe.
“I’m really, really accepted here and welcomed regardless of my anxiety and my [attention deficit disorder],” she said. “I walk in and I’m like, ‘I really want to work here. I found my home.’”
Contact Kristen Yee at kristen.yee00 ‘at’ gmail.com.