Future coffee shop to provide jobs for those with special needs

By Lindsey Ward - Anchor

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. - A Roanoke County family is using coffee and custard to help provide a future for those with special needs using coffee and custard.

They’re two common treats, but combined with Chris Woodrum, a beloved young man, you have a business opportunity that benefits more than just the customer.

If you drove by the corner building and parking lot on 9th Street right now it probably wouldn't catch your attention.

They're both empty.

But soon, construction will begin to breathe new life into the vacant spot.

“If you spend a minute with Chris it's hard not to love the guy,” said Robbie Herbert, owner of the 9th Street building.

Herbert operates Lab Sports Performance out of a portion of it, but he's giving the corner spot to his friend Chris to open-up a coffee shop. 

“We're going to serve coffee and custards,” Chris said.   

While construction will soon get underway Chris and his mom, Beth, are busy getting merchandise and the word out.

They want people to know "Chris's Coffee and Custard" is not just about serving up a cup of joe, but creating job opportunities for those with special needs, those who oftentimes struggle to find a job after aging out of school.

“Once the young adults age out at 21, there's not a whole lot of things they're able to do. Having a job it builds dignity, self-esteem, they get so excited getting a paycheck,” Beth said.

While Chris stays extremely busy as the assistant coach of the Cave Spring High School soccer team and a member of the Salem Red Sox hospitality crew, not all of his friends have these opportunities.

Chris has been selling those friends on the coffee shop idea.

“Just to see him excited and wanting to involve the community and talking to his friends about what the opportunities are going to be and just the changes in them talking about 'I'm going to have a job, I'm going to work,'” said Beth.

Chris is even working on the customer experience with an individualized greeting when you walk in.

“Say, 'Hi, you want a hug, or you want a fist bump,?'” Chris said.

While the Woodrums are working on the business plan, Robbie is making a difference offering up the space.

“I feel like I'm definitely helping them by kind of bringing them to the success that we're having and helping them do things that they want to do in the same way people have helped me get to this point,” Robbie said.

At some point in the future, the now empty space will be alive with lattes and laughs.   

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