Cadence Coffee and Creperie Sets Vulnerable Youth Up for Success

NILES, Ohio — A new coffee house in downtown Niles serves more than just lattes and pastries — it offers opportunity and second chances. 

The Cadence Coffeehouse and Creperie, established by the Cadence Care Network, is a “social enterprise” that provides vulnerable youth with job training and life skills, according to CEO Matt Kresic. 

“Our kiddos have any type of mental health issue or have been in treatment, so they have some living experience. Some of our kids are in the child welfare system, or have aged out of the child welfare system,” Kresic said. “They don’t necessarily have the exposure to things like a coffeehouse. We’re just giving them a chance to experience life a little differently.”

Cadence Care Network is a nonprofit agency that focuses on the behavioral and emotional well-being of youth, as well as the treatment and placement of teens and children in foster care homes. The building that houses the network is next door to the coffeehouse, both of which were bought for $210,000, according to Kresic. 

Another $700,000 went into renovations, which was made up mostly of grants and fundraising. A Community Resiliency Project Matching Grant through the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services covered 75% of the project.

The coffeehouse celebrated its grand opening and ribbon cutting Tuesday afternoon but has been in the soft-opening process for weeks, he said. The coffeehouse and creperie features a bar service area, two restrooms that comply with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, seating for 24 patrons, a kitchen, meeting space to present art and read, and a community room for public use. 

The project is the brainchild of Kresic, who thought a coffeehouse would be a great social enterprise project for Cadence Care. He has fond memories of going to coffee shops when he was growing up, and said he wants to give kids a similar experience while helping disadvantaged youth. 

Working in the service industry provides both hard and soft skills, from counting change to teamwork, Kresic said. A coffeehouse teaches specific, complex skills that require patience, like pulling an espresso shot or baking cookies. 

Soft skills, like time management and problem-solving, go beyond the workplace, Kresic said. The kids are learning how to respond to authority, how to work together and how to be an overall responsible adult. 

“Those types of soft skills are really important, and there’s little bit of coaching that happens with it. It’s not just a job where they’re here to work and get the job done,” he said. “At the end of the day, the most important thing here is that it’s a welcoming environment, where kids can gain skills and we can move them out into the community.” 

April Caraway, executive director of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, says the coffeehouse is more than meets the eye. 

“It’s not just a coffeehouse or an eatery – it’s about helping young people in our community develop job skills, develop responsibility and help them to feel like they belong, and they’re respected and included,” she said. 

Cadence Care aims to employ and train 20 at-risk youth ages 16 to 21 annually, with each employee working 20 hours per week for a six-month period. At-risk youth are those considered to be youth that struggle with mental health or substance abuse, are involved in child welfare and juvenile court, or have developmental disabilities. 

While the program gives the kids skills and a little pocket change, it also provides them a sense of community. The program provides a stable, nurturing environment where the youth are accepted for where they are and for who they are while connecting them to adults and peers that care for them. 

“The main goal is to give the kids a space where they feel valued – that’s the number one goal,” Caraway says. 

The café now only serves drinks and pastries. The lattes alone are good enough that a customer came back twice within the same day. Meredith Blair, of Mineral Ridge, said the O’Brien Irishman, a latte with hazelnut and Irish Crème syrups, is the best she’s ever had and she’s happy to support the cause.

“It’s a great cause. I’d definitely rather give them my money than Starbucks and the coffee is some of the best I’ve ever had,” she said.

The café will be introducing crepes and light lunch items within the next few months. Kresic said the kids must “walk before they run.” For now, they’re serving baked goods and specialty drinks like a cherry mocha latte known as the Maverick, as well as classics such as cappuccinos and chai lattes. The café is lat 31 N. Main St. and is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Employee Dustin Colapietro said he loves the job so far. 

“I love it. I love being able to meet nice people and work with nice people,” he said. “We’re like a family. A dysfunctional family — but a family.” 

Photo: Employee Sabastian Yale’s uniform shirt sports an important reminder on the back.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.