Amy Lunstra, the owner of Festive Cup Coffee and Gift Boutique, has a vision.
“We’re trying to provide opportunities where the adults that we’re supporting find value in their job and they’re as independent as possible,” Lunstra told Colorado Community Media.
Festive Cup began hiring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in January 2021. It’s the first step in Lunstra’s larger plan to provide adult services in Highlands Ranch.
“Owning a coffee shop and employing people with special needs is the start of this,” Lunstra said.
She intends to create a nonprofit agency that would provide services to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD). Ultimately, she’d like to have a bakery, a coffee roasting service and a laundry where employees with special needs earn an income alongside their support staff.
“My brain can see it all done and working beautifully,” Lunstra said. “But my nonbusiness brain struggles with a lot of the bits and pieces that go into making the giant picture come true.”
Fortunately, she’s been able to rely on the assistance and expertise of an ever-growing group of friends and colleagues to help her with her plans, she said.
Before becoming a small business owner, Lunstra spent eight years teaching students with special needs at ThunderRidge High School. While there, she realized there were too few post-graduation opportunities in the community for her students, she said.
Adults with developmental disabilities, as a group, are significantly underemployed, said Darcy Tibbles. She’s the vice president of community affairs for Developmental Pathways, a local nonprofit agency that serves individuals with IDD and their families. Adults with IDD might need some unique accommodations, so businesses that may not be familiar with those accommodations can be hesitant to reach out to this untapped workforce.
“Many places, I think, have a lot of fears about it, and I wish they would just look to (Festive Cup) to see how well it works,” said Dawn Sullivan, the person behind the boutique’s social media posts.
Sullivan began volunteering at Festive Cup after Lunstra hired her daughter last year. She said the opportunity changed her daughter’s life, giving her purpose and a feeling of independence.
For Reece Kounter, it’s the relationships that matter.
“It’s fun. I have friends here,” Kounter said. “I like working here because I have friends.”
At Festive Cup, Kounter operates the cash register, makes beverages for customers and cleans. A former student of Lunstra’s, Kounter turned 21 this year and also attends a day program for adults with IDD in Castle Rock.
So far, nine adults with IDD have worked at Festive Cup and Lunstra is preparing to add four more. The shop has 19 employees overall.
Originally owned by Dawn and Tony Whitham, Festive Cup changed hands in July 2020. Under Lunstra’s leadership, it continues to provide coffee, gifts, clothing and decor as well as a place for patrons to meet up and hang out.
“When (people) come and support the coffee shop, they’re supporting a vision for inclusivity,” Sullivan said. Her daughter, she said, wants to be like everyone else and Festive Cup is a place that allows her to do that.
“We need more places like hers,” Sullivan said of Lunstra’s business. “And more hearts like hers.”