Having worked with parents with insecure housing, Andrew Nishimoto said that many of them have had traumatic workplaces that didn’t allow them to excel. Fear of being fired for calling out when their child is sick or having to work alone during late hours, for instance, are situations that bar them from keeping a job.
Wanting to create a trauma-informed workplace, especially for parents in transitional housing, Nishimoto will be opening Wrigley Coffee—a place for social enterprise to go along with that caffeine fix.
“What we started to realize is while a lot of our families wanted to work and had the desire to be self-sustaining in that way, they didn’t all have the necessary skills to do that,” Nishimoto said.
Wrigley Coffee will be replacing the former Fox Coffee House at 437 W. Willow St. in the Wrigley neighborhood. He and his team have renovated the space and hope to open the cafe as early as January 2022.
While it’s still going to sell coffee, Nishimoto’s new coffee shop will be pleasantly disguised as a business with job training, mentorship and case management (aka a social worker helping trainees out). He already serves as the executive director of the Family Promise of the South Bay, an organization that helps homeless families achieve housing stability by providing short-term shelter, food and case management, so he plans to use his newly leased coffee shop as an extension of his work to address the bigger picture of homelessness.
“What if we took part in this and made a business so that they could get something serious, get money, and also a little confidence at the same time to get back on their feet,” Riley Draghi, coffee program manager for Wrigley Coffee.
Nishimoto said that he’s getting referrals from a transitional housing location, and their case manager at Wrigley Coffee is currently working with those individuals. He did not disclose the location of the transitional housing structures to protect the privacy of those living there.
The customers, he said, probably won’t be able to tell the difference between the baristas in the program and those permanently employed. While the program is scripted for 90 days, depending on the circumstance, it might become extended or shortened, he said. And every employee, whether permanent or temporary, will go through trauma-informed training, which means they will be trained to be more sensitive to others’ traumas.
Wrigley Coffee will have a partnership with Grow with Google to implement digital literacy training as well as one with City Church of Long Beach that has allowed Nishimoto to stay rooted in Wrigley. He was drawn to the Wrigley neighborhood because of how involved residents are in the community.
“And so we thought, what better place to start something that’s all about the community than a place that already embraces that,” Nishimoto said.
As a way to keep community buzz going, Wrigley Coffee will be offering two temporary rental spaces. The larger one can accommodate for community meetings or small events. The smaller one will be more of a workspace room where students can reserve it for free, Draghi added.
Pricing and hours will become available on the Wrigley Coffee website soon.
While his teammates are still finalizing the coffee recipes, what’s certain is that the coffee beans will be locally supplied by Solid Roasters Coffee, whose owner, Mark Tigchelaar, and two colleagues will be providing training to baristas at Wrigley Coffee for a few weeks. Beverages will be sold at craft prices, Nishimoto said.
“We’re super excited and happy to help out,” Tigchelaar said.
Nishimoto and his team are awaiting final permit approvals from the city. In the meantime, he’s eager to open his doors.
And while yes, you could meet at a restaurant, bar or other places, to him, a coffee shop invokes creativity and collaboration. Whether it’s a business wanting to grow its footprint or a regular neighborhood group that wants to plan its next gathering, he encourages it all.
“I think that that’s something that we want to see happen here, just like new ideas take off…”