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New Minneapolis coffee shop would focus on people in recovery

Can a coffee shop help people stay sober?

Can a coffee shop help people stay sober? Unsplash.com

Like so many people, when Katy Armendariz finished her rehab program, she left unsure of her next step.

She loved her work, but in many ways, it had led her to rehab in the first place. Before she entered treatment, Armendariz worked to provide “culturally responsive services” to foster families through the organization she founded, MN CarePartner. As an international adoptee and former foster child, she grew up familiar with and critical of the disparities in the child welfare system. She knew how often kids of color were adopted into white families and the cultural trauma that could come of that.

That’s why starting MN CarePartner was so important to her. But more and more, she found the work triggering. It was a constant reminder of her own past as a foster kid, and the hardships she went through. She started coping with alcohol and developed an addiction she says almost cost her “everything.”

“I needed to readjust my role there,” she says. “I realized that protecting my sobriety had to be my priority.”

Armendariz told her husband that she almost wished she could just work at a coffee shop, like she had in high school and college. She’d loved serving customers at Nokomis Beach Coffee and the cafe in Borders Books. She says her husband laughed and joked that she’d be another person with several degrees working a gig at Caribou.

Instead, she came up with the idea for Coffee Rehab -- a safe, welcoming place for people in recovery. There would be no alcohol served (booze is increasingly popular at boutique coffee shops in the cities). The shop would be open during late hours, so people could still go out and have fun while maintaining their sobriety. Everything, from the coffee to the food to the artwork, would be made by people in recovery, and there would be space for support groups to meet.

“There will be no judgment, because they’ll all get it,” she says.

Once Armendariz commits to an idea, she commits fully. She nabbed the business name, and the tax ID, and a storefront in the Longfellow neighborhood. She even got the promised help of Jim Smart, the restaurant designer who brought us Betty Danger’s, Erik the Red, and Funky Grits, to get the cafe ready.

Now, all she needs is funding: about $250,000 for renovations, and $50,000 for equipment. She’s planning on starting a Kickstarter campaign for Coffee Rehab, which will launch next Monday, February 4. She’s hopeful based on the amount of buzz she’s receiving for the idea. She has the support of her City Council representative, Andrew Johnson, and from organizations like All Square in Minneapolis and Kodiak Treatment Center in Edina.

She knows it’s a risky venture. Coffee shops don’t have great profit margins. But she’s optimistic. “Once I have the money, the rest is easy,” she says. Armendariz has faced challenges before, and here she stands – full of conviction and ready to work.