Brody’s Be Cafe welcomes anyone and everyone into their shop


Photo provided by Masyn Cole

Founder and President of Brody’s Be Cafe Jennifer Cole loves coffee. She loves the drink itself, getting coffee with people, and having quality conversations with people at coffee shops. This was part of the reason why she founded Brody’s Be Cafe.

The other reason Brody’s Be Cafe was founded was because of her son, Brody. Brody has Down syndrome, and Jennifer’s family was unsure of what they should do when he grew up. So, Jennifer thought of the idea to make a coffee shop for people with physical and mental disabilities to work at. After about a year of planning, she opened the cafe in downtown Ada.

Not only was the goal to give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to get a job, but also to “bridge the gap” between people with disabilities and people without; Jennifer and the people who supported her wanted to bring everyone in the community together.

“It makes me feel really good to see people working together and hanging out together [where] some [people] might have disabilities and some might not,” Jennifer said. “They’re all hanging out together, and differences don’t seem to matter as much, and that was what my goal was. So, it really makes me feel really good, and it feels like a really great accomplishment.”

Executive Director Rachel Stadt is proud of how far the cafe has come and of all of the connections being made, but in the beginning, she was a little wary.

“[Jennifer] asked me if I wanted to work [at Brody’s],” Stadt said, “and, at first, I said no because I was a little bit [timid of working] with the kids with special needs—because I didn’t really have a whole lot of background in that.”

Since her beginning at Brody’s, Stadt has learned more about disabilities and has seen how much the employees can do in spite of their own challenges. She also has made a great connection with them and looks forward to her days.

“I feel like my view is way different,” Stadt said. “I feel like it has taught me to be more humble, more patient, [and] just compassionate for every single one of [the workers].”

Whether it is a worker or a regular customer like Jennifer’s daughter sophomore Masyn Cole, people agree that Brody’s Be Cafe is a perspective-changing place that is filled to the brim with joy and comfort.

“[I would describe Brody’s Be Cafe as] just happiness,” Masyn said. “When you walk in the door, you feel this happiness in you; it’s just everyone’s hugging and dancing around, or singing, or whatever, and it’s just great.”

Like many businesses around the world, however, COVID-19 has greatly affected Brody’s Be Cafe.

For three months, Brody’s Be Cafe was not able to stay open. And even when they did reopen, they couldn’t keep all of their regular hours because of the lack of people going out for coffee and the missing revenue to pay their employees.

“[Having to cut their hours was hard] for me to have to tell them,” Stadt said, “because [for] some of them that’s the only thing that they will do all day. Like, they don’t have friends that they go hang out with or [aren’t like] ‘yay school is now virtual, [so] we can hang out at each other’s houses.’ Brody’s is the only thing that a lot of them have.”

Despite the struggles of COVID-19, the cafe is still the happy, unique place it was when it began.

“[The COVID-19 precautions] doesn’t change the feeling,” Masyn said. “It’s still the same place, and it’s still a happy place, but it’s just slower, and it’s less social, and you can’t hug anyone or anything, but it’s not changed a lot.”

With or without the challenges COVID-19 has thrown at them, the workers are still working and bringing people together and loving their jobs.

“The energy that’s in there with our workers,” Stadt said, “with our ‘beristas,’ that’s what we call our workers with special needs, and the baristas, those without, when they are working together. I feel like that’s something that everybody in the community needs to see because I think then you bridge that gap, and people aren’t as afraid to interact with people with disabilities.”

The word “berista” didn’t sprout from out of the blue, and it isn’t the only thing that relates to the name of the shop. “Be’s” are all around the shop and are there to be more welcoming, just like the coffee shops Jennifer wanted to embody when she first thought of the idea.

“We have words that start with ‘be,’” Jennifer said, “like belong, believe, beside, become—all of the ‘be’ words that really mean everybody together and being accepted. That’s what the ‘be’ stands for: you be when you come [to Brody’s]. You’re being who you are, and this is how we will be, and it’s always just meant what it means. We haven’t changed that at all.”