Emily's Coffee opens to help refugees learn valuable skills on the job

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Emily's Coffee, which just opened at 1261 Glenarm Street, is pouring coffee and espresso drinks made with beans from local roaster Kaladi Brothers and a case of freshly baked pastries. And that's not all: It's also providing a training environment for hundreds of refugees who have found themselves in Denver.

"Within the Emily Griffith Technical College, we have a language learning center that contracts with the state to provide programs to refugees and immigrants,"says Kevin Mohatt, the community relations manager for that center. "We had 1,200 people go through the programs last year, and in addition to language skills, we have a job-training program, since it would be difficult to come here as a refugee and pick up a new job."

That program, Mohatt goes on to explain, equips new arrivals with the soft and hard skills necessary for working in the United States. In addition to learning how to use a computer, the participants receive training on why it's important to arrive on time, wear a uniform and ask for clarification.

This year, the center has expanded the program to include shifts at Emily's Coffee. "They spend time in the classroom and then a few hours each week in the coffee shop," Mohatt notes. "But they don't just learn how to be a barista. The idea is that they get experience interacting with customers and providing customer service, which is applicable in other jobs."

Lessons in the store will be provided by a manager, who will train program participants on the espresso machines as well as the basics of customer interaction. Those participants will also be set up on job shadows, where they'll go to Denver workplaces to observe the American job culture in action. "We're not just teaching them skills to get a job -- we're teaching them skills to retain a job, too," Mohatt says.

Moreover, Emily's Coffee is trying to keep all aspects of supplying the shop within the school and refugee community: "They'll start serving pastries baked by students in the professional baking classes, the uniforms were sewn by a refugee sewing project and the logo was embroidered by our professional sewing classes," says Mohatt.

The shop is currently serving coffee, but Mohatt stresses that it is still very much in soft opening mode. "We'll have our grand opening on October 28," he says. "That's when our full menu will be available."

Full hours -- from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday -- will start then, too.

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