For the owners of Café Inclusio, a café created as a way to provide job opportunities to adults with intellectual and developmental challenges, opening their first location was a dream years in the making.
Co-owner Suzanne Boudreau explained in an interview that lifelong friend Nathalie Perron came to her and her husband Pierre Arsenault with the idea around 2017, when their children were nearing the end of high school and were wondering what would come next.
Boudreau and Arsenault’s son Joël Arsenault lives with a form of autism that makes communicating with others difficult, while Perron’s son Samuel Dégarie lives with Down Syndrome.
“We know that people that people with either mental health issues or any kind of disabilities are less likely to be finding employment,” said Boudreau, who also works as a social worker.
“We know that there are a lot of businesses out there that do great to support employment, we just wanted to add to that, knowing that we have sons that are going to be difficult to employ.” she said.
Joël and Samuel are noticeably enthusiastic about their work.
“They love the whole process, they love interacting with people, they love when we are able to tell them that they are doing a good job, and we know that they are happy because they’re always in a good mood to come to Café Inclusio,” Boudreau said.
The business started in 2019 as a pop-up business where the boys would serve coffee at events and festivals.
When the pandemic shut down most of those events, they pivoted to a wholesale model, delivering coffee to people’s homes.
Boudreau said the goal had always been to eventually open an in-person café, so when an opportunity arose for a location in Dieppe’s historic Doiron House, they jumped at the chance.
Customers have been pouring in since their soft opening on Friday, in part thanks to Café Inclusio’s loyal social media fanbase.
Client Charline Ouellette was visiting the café for the second time on Monday, and said, “It’s amazing what they’ve done. The location is beautiful and everything’s delicious.”
Arsenault said they will soon be looking to expand the team and employ other adults with disabilities.
“The training process will be identifying very specific tasks, giving them very clear instructions and a lot of support to repeat those tasks until they’re mastered. The key is a lot of support,” she said.