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Times Leader

Coffee Inclusive opens in Pittston, employing those with diverse abilities

By Tony Callaio For Times Leader,

2023-03-13
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Coffee Inclusive employee Cherie Klush, left, gets a little guidance from Cary Walsh while filling the container with coffee beans. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

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PITTSTON – Frank Bartoli has been dreaming about creating a coffee shop to employ people with diverse abilities and Autism for many years.

Dreams became a reality when Coffee Inclusive, under the umbrella of NEPA Inclusive, opened its doors on Monday morning.

Several dozen people, donors and dignitaries gathered at 350 Kennedy Blvd, Suite 12, Pittston, for the ribbon-cutting ceremony that took place outside the doors of the large building called the Waterfront.

Bartoli, president/CEO of NEPA Inclusive, created NEPA Inclusive to help create and support inclusive and sustainable lives for people with disabilities. He had been talking about creating a coffee shop for years waiting for the right time and place to create such a business, a first of its kind in Northeastern PA.

“It’s been five or six years since we thought about a coffee shop,” Bartoli said. “We’ve look at options over the last number of years and when this one final came along, we thought, it’s time.”

Bartoli did not have to look too far from when looking for a site; it was next door to NEPA Inclusive’s offices at Kennedy Blvd.

“That was a perfect set up,” Bartoli said, on the closing of a smoothie bar next to their offices. “It just all came together finally.”

Bartoli said he didn’t want to get ahead of himself to discuss future projects regarding Coffee Inclusive but hinted there may be future sites if available, but in the mean time, he’s glad the Pittston location is up and running and with the soft opening, has been a success.

“We do think there’s a possibility that we can make all of our six regional offices coffee storefronts,” Bartoli admitted. “Realistically, we think there is a potential for us to open in at least three or four of them, maybe even five.”

Cat Zaladonis, a Pittston Area senior and a barista, has had experience in making smoothies and other beverages, was enlisted to work at Coffee Inclusive.

“I previously worked at Blend Natural, which is where our office is located now, so I had knew how to make smoothie, juices and everything so I came in to help people learn how to make the juices and everything,” Zaladonis said. “It’s really good and I teach them stuff and they teach me stuff and it’s nice.”

Forty-two-year-old Christina Wesley, of Dupont, started her very first job when Coffee Inclusive hired her.

“They trained me to make espressos, juices and coffee,” Wesley said. “I’ll be working three to four days a week. It’s very exciting. I loved today. I made some new friends today.”

Kevin Michael Richards, a Coffee Inclusive employee, will be traveling twice a week from Moscow for work.

“My mom found out the place was opening from her friends on Facebook,” Richards, 21, said. “I’ll be working two days a week as a dishwasher.”

Michelle Mikitish, Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce president, was on hand for the ribbon cutting. She’s excited to see a new business open in Greater Pittston, especially giving those with disabilities a voice and a chance to work.

“There are two things I’m excited about,” Mikitish said. “First off, I’m excited that NEPA is able to deliver what they talk about: how important it is for those diverse abilities to work within our community. Second, I love that NEPA Inclusive opened a coffee shop in Greater Pittston and to prove that it can be done. I’m hoping employers all over our area are paying attention and employ people with diverse abilities.”

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright noted, “The genius in Coffee Inclusive, it’s the first endeavor of this nature in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and I have no doubt it is going to be a model for things to come.”

Pittston Mayor Michael Lombardo added, “Frank and his team have certainly rolled up their sleeves and demonstrated that hard work could get to this beginning. This is really awesome, please come and support this great endeavor and let’s create more opportunities like this so that those opportunities extend across the board here in the city of Pittston and in Northeast Pennsylvania.”

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