Oak City Coffee Roasters aims to aid adults with autism

kcharles@newsobserver.comJune 13, 2014 

— Oak City Coffee Roasters plans to start making its own version of coffee K-Cups with the help of a few autistic adults.

“I wanted to run a business that includes adults with autism,” said Bill Landahl, the owner of the local roaster. “I always wanted to create a place in this world for people with special needs.”

Oak City hopes to raise $20,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to begin the production of what it is calling “Care Cups.”

Like K-Cups, these would be single-serving portions of coffee to go into a Keurig coffee-brewing machine. Inside each small plastic container would be an even smaller coffee filter with ground coffee inside it.

“It’s a very simple project in all its actuality, where three adults with special needs will have permanent meaningful work,” Landahl said.

The project is expected to hire the adults with autism through Wake Enterprises.

Landahl said he thinks people can do good within the community, starting with those who some may take for granted because of conditions such as autism.

“They are beautiful people who have the ability, and we can maximize what they can do,” he said. “They are going to be really proud at the end of the day to know that they made something that people all over Raleigh are now enjoying.”

Landahl envisions one person filling the cups with a certain number of grounds of coffee. The second person will operate the new machine he hopes to buy with the money from the campaign. That machine will put the lids on the cups.

The third person will take the lidded cup and put it in a package.

Right now, the coffee roaster already is working with Wake Enterprises on labeling bags of coffee.

“On projects like the work we do for Oak City Roasters, we pay the people with disabilities for the work they do,” said Walter Weeks, executive director for Wake Enterprises. “Our customer (in this case, Oak City Roasters) pays us for the total project.”

Last year, Landahl quit his job as an engineer and launched Oak City Coffee Roasters on Hargett Street.

Landahl said he got interested in coffee after meeting a man from Colombia whose father was a coffee farmer. The man spoke about trying to get coffee in the United States.

“I looked into how he can get his father’s coffee into the country,” he said. “Then I decided that I wanted to do this.”

A month later, he bought a roaster and a few months later found a place to plug it in. He then spent a year learning how to roast coffee.

“The idea was really birthed out of a desire to make an impact on people,” he said.

The idea to work with those with autism came from an afternoon lunch with a colleague whose son has autism.

Landahl said he has high hopes that he will raise the full amount.

“I didn’t form the company because there’s so much money in coffee,” he said, sitting on a bag of coffee and laughing. “I formed the company because it’s really a platform for the impact I’m going to make in the world.”

Charles: 919-829-4864

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