Nov 4, 2022 - Food and Drink

New coffee shop called Backdrop employs individuals with disabilities

Interior of Backdrop Coffee in Seversville. Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

Backdrop Coffee is located in the Seversville neighborhood of Charlotte; beside it is a coffee roastery called Haerfest Roasting Co. 

The coffee shop, which opened last summer, is only the “backdrop” of owner Toby Foreman’s mission: to provide jobs to individuals with disabilities.

  • Coffee, he says, is “just the vessel.”

Why it matters: It’s difficult for people with disabilities to find a job – even amidst recent labor shortages, as Axios’ Emily Peck reported.

  • Backdrop and Haerfest hope to change this. “We see the competency that resides in each person,” Foreman said. “We pour into other people to allow them to see who they are within.”
  • It’s a cause that is close to Foreman’s heart. He has a son with Down syndrome and grew up with a brother with autism.

Context: Foreman founded Haerfest Roasting Co. in 1998. 

  • Pronounced “harvest” from an Old English variant, Haerfest employs individuals with a range of disabilities, including Down syndrome and brain injuries.
  • These employees are involved in the roasting process every step of the way, from roasting to packaging. The process includes a team of roast masters, who work in the on-site roastery.
haerfest coffee
Haerfest’s roastery sits adjacent to Backdrop Coffee. Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

“Everything we do, from the artwork to the roasting to the packaging, everything has a meaning behind it,” Foreman said. “It says that everyone has capabilities and competencies.” 

Zoom in: Each bag of Haerfest Coffee includes a label with artwork designed by local individuals with disabilities. These labels are then assembled in the cutting station, which, Foreman said, is about much more than adding artwork to bags — it’s about practicing motor skills. 

  • This “ultimately helps individuals with Down syndrome [or other disabilities] to brush their teeth or feed themselves,” he said. “It’s very, very important.”

The big picture: Another local coffee shop that shares a similar mission — Bitty & Beau’s, a coffee shop that employs individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities — opened last year in South End’s Design Center.

Haefest Logo
This level of detail is apparent all the way down to Haerfest’s logo. The 3 C’s, which stand for competent, compassion, and capable, tell only part of the story. The 3 small lines in the bottom left nod to the three copies of chromosome 21 in an individual with Down syndrome. Photo courtesy of Toby Foreman.

What to expect: Backdrop delivers a full coffee menu along with house-made syrups and breakfast/brunch options like pumpkin pie waffles and avocado toast.

Backdrop coffee
Backdrop’s pumpkin spice latte ($5). Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios
Backdrop coffee
Expect brunch foods such as these pumpkin pie waffles with caramel whipped cream ($9). Photo: McKenzie Rankin/Axios

Details: You can find Backdrop at 919 Berryhill Rd. 

  • It’s open Monday-Saturday from 8am-3pm. It’s closed on Sundays.

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