Dirt Coffee Bar Opens in Littleton With a Mission of Training Autism Spectrum Employees | Westword

Dirt Coffee Opens New Cafe to Train Employees on the Autism Spectrum

Dirt Coffee Bar, which employees and trains individuals on the autism spectrum, hosts its grand opening party on Saturday, May 5, in downtown Littleton.
Dirt Coffee hosts the grand opening of its first brick-and-mortar cafe in Littleton on May 5.
Dirt Coffee hosts the grand opening of its first brick-and-mortar cafe in Littleton on May 5. Courtesy of Dirt Coffee
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After operating out of a coffee truck for the past six years, Dirt Coffee will finally open a brick and mortar spot on Saturday, May 5. Taking over a decades-old bungalow at 5767 South Rapp Street in Littleton, the coffee shop will train and employ people with autism spectrum disorder.

Dirt Coffee started out in 2013 as the brainchild of Lauren Thome, who developed the business plan for the coffee truck after receiving a scholarship to the Denver Greater Good Academy.

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Courtesy of Dirt Coffee
According to Dirt's website, 90 percent of people on the autism spectrum are either underemployed or unemployed, so Thome's business plan was built around giving those individuals employment opportunities. "Our truck reached its capacity in terms of our ability to employ individuals with autism," says Thome.

The mobile coffee shop has already served as the training ground for 26 people on the spectrum. "Our shop will allow us to expand our mission and train and employ up to fifty individuals with autism within its first year," she adds.

Whether stationary or mobile, Dirt has your coffee needs. Even after the cafe takes root in downtown Littleton, the coffee truck will still operate, primarily at special events. Location isn't the only change; Dirt is switching from Kaladi to Huckleberry as its coffee supplier. Huckleberry worked with Thome and Dirt staff to develop a barista training program, adapting Huckleberry's standard training for people with autism. The cafe, designed to feel like a "cozy farmhouse," as Thome puts it, was designed and built by TACT (Teaching the Autism Community Trades), a Denver organization that provides trade and technical skills to people on the spectrum.

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Courtesy of Dirt Coffee
The added space allows Dirt to expand in several ways. In addition to standard coffee and tea drinks, beer, wine and Happy Leaf kombucha will also be available on tap. Infinite Monkey Theorem will supply the wine, and some of the beer will come from Brewability Lab, a company dedicated to employing adults with disabilities, so your beer money will be doing double duty when you sip on a strawberry blonde ale. Food items such as paninis, salads and pastries round out the full menu.

“We want you to come to us for a quality cup of coffee and come back to support the cause,” Thome notes.

The grand opening, which has seen its fair share of delays, is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this Saturday and will go until 9 p.m., with live music beginning at 3 p.m. Normal business hours will resume Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m..

For more details, call Dirt at 303-306-8259 or visit the cafe's website.
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