May 2, 2022 - Food and Drink

Raleigh's popular 321 Coffee coming to Durham

A graphic rendering of 321 Coffee's shop in Durham's 300 Morris building.
321 Coffee's future shop in Durham's 300 Morris building. Rendering courtesy of 321 Coffee

321 Coffee, a popular Raleigh coffee shop that hires employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will open its first cafe in Durham this summer, co-founder and CEO, Lindsay Wrege, tells Axios.

Details: It will be the coffee shop's fourth and largest cafe.

  • The shop will open on the first floor of the Durham Innovation District’s 300 Morris building, which is home to companies like Google, Spreedly and the Duke Clinical Research Institute.

What’s happening: 321 Coffee has operated out of a stall at the State Farmers Market since 2019. Now, it's in expansion mode thanks to private investors. The original farmers market location is still open.

  • Earlier this year the coffee shop announced plans to open a cafe inside the Raleigh tech company Pendo's new downtown offices.
  • 321 is currently building another location in the courtyard of the Bloc[83] development on Hillsborough Street.
  • And it is close to opening a roastery in south Raleigh that will significantly expand the amount of coffee bags it can sell.

Background: Founded by Wrege, 22, and Michael Evans, 23, when they were students at N.C. State University in 2019, 321 employs more than 30 people with a disability.

Both Wrege and Evans grew up with close friends with disabilities, such as Down syndrome, and saw them struggle to find jobs after they were done with school.

  • "All they got to do was clean the bathrooms or wash the dishes or restocked napkins," Wrege told Axios. "They weren't always working in places where they were valued, and where they were really able to contribute."

Of note: Currently, 321 has a 70-person waitlist for jobs at its coffee shops.

The big picture: 321's growth is, in part, being fueled by a growing interest among companies to invest in inclusion efforts.

  • Wrege believes more firms, like Pendo, will be interested in working with 321, in an effort to both inspire workers and give them a reason to visit the office.
  • For its part, Longfellow Real Estate, the developers of 300 Morris, called 321 Coffee "one the best examples of inclusion and bettering our collective tomorrow through innovation in the Triangle."
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