Positively JAX: More than just a cup of coffee at Noah’s Agape Café

New café in Fruit Cove looking to hire those with special needs

A new coffee shop that highlights those with special needs just opened in the Fruit Cove and St. Johns areas.

FRUIT COVE, Fla. – A new coffee shop that highlights those with special needs just opened in the Fruit Cove and St. Johns areas.

Noah’s Agape Café at 102 State Road 13 is hiring people with special needs. Positions include cashiers, dining room assistants, stockers, dishwashers and working behind the coffee bar.

Owner Beckie Schwartz said she wants the positions to be visible to the community.

“I want them to come in with a smile on their face and look forward to working and being a part of the community, show people that they are so able and willing and ready and want to work,” said Schwartz. “They just think that our kids are just sweeping floors and cleaning toilets. That is not true. They are so much more capable. You just have to teach them and they have the willingness to learn.”

Beckie Schwartz's mission is to not only hire people with intellectual developments and disabilities, but make sure their positions are visible to the customers they are serving. (WJXT)

She named the café, which was a year in the making, after her son, 15-year-old Noah Guptill. He has Down syndrome, autism and is legally blind but will be the youngest employee there.

“It is just overwhelming to me. All of the love and support and prayers,” Schwartz said.

The coffee is specially blended by Martin Coffee Company, the oldest coffee roaster in North Florida. Artwork from local artists with intellectual differences will be on display, according to the cafe’s website.

Noah’s Café is partnering with Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville, Best Buddies Association of North Florida and Noah’s school, North Florida School of Special Education (NFSSE), to mentor and provide opportunities to those with special needs.

Noah's Agape Cafe in Fruit Cove is open for business. (WJXT)

The coffee shop will also serve as an additional training facility and employment for graduates. It will also sell Barkin’ Biscuits dog treats, made by NFSSE students.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, 19.1% of people with an intellectual and developmental disability in the United States were employed.

Schwartz not only wants to improve that number but wants her employees to know their jobs are meaningful.

“I just want to be the hands of feet of Jesus. This is the community’s coffee shop,” Schwartz said. “I hope we can do great things for the community.”

About the Authors: