Inclusive Raleigh coffee shop celebrates third anniversary


Photograph by Mick Schulte

   321 Coffee is an iconic Raleigh café with a heartwarming twist. This coffee shop, located on Farmers Market Drive, is staffed exclusively by employees with developmental and intellectual disabilities. From roasting and grinding coffee to serving customers, the intellectually and developmentally disabled are employed at every level at this café and, according to Lindsay Wrege, co-founder and CEO of 321 Coffee, “they crush it.” Now, the crew of this small café has yet another achievement to celebrate. 321 Coffee’s anniversary is on March 20, marking three years since the café opened its doors on March 20, 2019.

   321 Coffee seeks to provide inclusive and meaningful employment to the intellectually and developmentally disabled. The café’s name is even a play on the date 3/21, or World Down’s Syndrome Day, representing the company’s commitment to offering a fulfilling work environment to vulnerable groups such as those with Down’s syndrome among other disabilities, many of whom would otherwise be unemployed. According to 321 Coffee, this can be a life-changing opportunity for employees, as the disabled community experiences an 80 percent unemployment rate. By offering an inclusive workplace for the intellectually and developmentally disabled, 321 Coffee serves to improve its employees’ quality of life through social interaction and a sense of achievement as well as providing an opportunity to earn an income.

  321 Coffee had its humble beginnings in 2017 as a pop-up coffee shop made up of only a few folding tables and an at-home coffee maker. Now, the café features a full espresso menu and a permanent storefront close to the farmer’s market, as well as plans to open another location in downtown Raleigh.