Coffee shop run by nonprofit helping Sheridan teens gain marketable job skills

A Sheridan coffee shop is transforming the lives of teens living in the small town by bringing much needed entry leve...

Posted: Mar 4, 2018 4:19 PM

A Sheridan coffee shop is transforming the lives of teens living in the small town by bringing much needed entry level jobs to the area.

The bottom line for most business owners is to grow revenue. For Kathie Byers, it's to create value in her community.

"One thing we like to teach the kids is that it's OK to get things for free, but it's even better to work for what you want," said Byers.

Byers sees the Bridge Street Coffee House as an opportunity.

"Six other people tried to make this a profitable business and it was more important to us, for it to be a place kids could get work experience," said Byers.

Byers is the director of LINCS, a nonprofit organization that supports youth activities and sports in the west valley. The nonprofit bought the coffee shop two years ago as a way to teach teens marketable job skills.

Work experience in the town of roughly 6,000 people is limited.

"There's the store, but it's really only box boys they hire, the Subway, Figaro's and the Dairy Queen on the highway, that's it for teens" said Assistant Manager Jordan Lachance.

The coffee shop has changed that.

"This was my first customer service job," she added.

Byers tells FOX 12 all proceeds from the shop support LINCS programs and the salaries of a handful of employees. Right now, she can't afford to hire every teen who applies, but kids can volunteer and also earn high school credit for time they spend at the shop.

"We've now gone to four paid staff and we easily have 35 volunteers between adults and high school students who all help make coffee shop operate," said Byers.

Teens often start out by making the shop's signature quarter pound cookies.

"I've never ever baked in my life, but just baking here for two hours a day, three days a week, is something I look forward to doing," said Barista Ronni Vanzant.

Through baking, Byers believes kids are taught the importance of food safety while learning a sense of self confidence.

"I was very shy, I didn't like to talk to strangers and I didn't like people to look at me," said LaChance. "So, she forced me to do the register and now I'm not like that. I think it pushed me out of my shell."

"It completely changed at how I look at the world," said Vanzant. "I had social anxiety really bad to where I couldn't be in a group of people. Now, every morning I know who is coming in, it's a good conversation. This job has changed how I see myself."

A change, Byers is proud to be a part of.

"My focus is on the young people, I want them to know there's so much more available to them," said Byers. "If they can think of it we can make it happen."

Bridge Street Coffee Shop is on the brink of closing and a campaign has been launched to keep it open.

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