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Port Washington bakery with mission to employ disabled to close

Cafe employees Paul Marcellino, from left, Adam Robbins,

Cafe employees Paul Marcellino, from left, Adam Robbins, manager Abe King, Ray Colossa, Rhonda Bienes and Philip Leifer at Coffeed-Sweet Comfort Cafe, which is closing Aug. 31 after eight years in business. Credit: Howard Schnapp

After eight years of supplying the Port Washington community with baked goods and single-origin coffee, Coffeed-Sweet Comfort Bakery & Café will close Thursday afternoon.

The store, with its vintage tchotchkes and vibrant red walls, was regularly filled with residents eager to support its unique mission of offering vocational training for the developmentally disabled.

The business was opened in 2009 by Westbury-based Community Mainstreaming Associates Inc., a nonprofit that offers services such as residential living and educational programs for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In 2013, it partnered with Coffeed, a New York City-based specialty coffee company that donates a portion of its revenues to local charities.

Over the years, the store on Irma Avenue employed dozens of people with disabilities and enjoyed the community’s support, but was never financially sustainable, said Eileen Egan, the nonprofit’s executive director. Though the closure was bittersweet, Egan said the staff — 12 employees, eight of whom are disabled — felt fortunate to have provided employment opportunities for as long as it did.

“We’ve always been very proud of the social mission, and we were able to attain that,” Egan said. “What we tried to show with our model is that people with developmental disabilities can be great employees.”

The store’s employees said they’ve learned valuable job skills such as customer service and built lasting friendships through their work at the bakery.

Adam Robbins, 53, of Port Washington, has worked at the business since its opening and has assisted with maintenance, baking and customer service. He said the job meant getting a “decent paycheck” and helping people out. Robbins said he now has more self-confidence in his abilities and is proud that he no longer requires as much vocational coaching.

Robbins’ roommate, Paul Marcellino, 65, has worked at the bakery for the past seven years. He said he felt “a little shocked” by the store’s closure, a place where he said he enjoyed working and where people were nice to him.

“I’m looking for another job now,” Marcellino said. “I feel more confident, I really do.”

The store’s manager, Abe King, said that working at the bakery was a tremendous learning experience and that he hoped other businesses would follow suit in broadening their employment practices.

“Helping them is a process of learning how we’re going to help everyone and how we’re going to help each other,” said King, 53, of Bellmore.

The business will be open Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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