Coffee shop that hires special needs adults, facing more pandemic problems

A unique coffee shop, with some very special employees, has had to make numerous changes during the pandemic.

When COVID-19 hit, Independent Grounds Cafe was forced to shut down. The owner was ready to re-open at a new location but is now facing more obstacles.

The cafe first opened in Kennesaw in 2018. It is more than a place to grab a cup of joe, it's a place that is changing lives. The majority of the employees are special needs adults.

Lorna Heid started the business when her daughter, Emma, who has special needs, was 17.

"This was sort of the next steps for her. Once she graduated from high school how do we provide for her, what sort of job opportunities does she have available?  Adults with special needs often cannot find meaningful work so this was an opportunity for them to come to a coffee shop, get job training, get the experience and confidence," said Heid.

Heid had been partnering with a church in Roswell, but when the pandemic hit the church was forced to shut its doors. No more coffee shop.

"I missed it during the pandemic, I've been out of work for quite some time," said Drew Acree who has been working at Independent Grounds since it opened.

Heid found a space at the Bixby development across the street from the Kennesaw State University football stadium.  Heid thought it was a perfect location.  It's close to plenty of students who need caffeine and jobs.

"We primarily hire people with special needs but we also higher team leads too," said Heid.

But Heid is still feeling the effects of the pandemic.

"COVID has had a lot of repercussions, permitting took extra time and construction costs have gone crazy through the roof in the past few months," said Heid.

Heid said the cost to build out the space has jumped $100,000 in the past few months. While she struggles to figure out how she's going to make it happen, she tries to stay positive and look forward to one day soon serving a good cup of coffee while providing meaningful employment for all.

"I know there's a lot of people who want us so we hope we'll be able to get it going and get it open," said Heid.

Heid said she's been looking at all her options from extra loans to CARES funding. She's also set up a GoFundMe to help get the business back on track.

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