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Bloom Café Opens Doors For All

Meredyth Staunch, Managing Editor

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Meredyth Staunch

As customers wait in line outside to enter The Bloom Cafe, a server hands out samples of pastries, including cinnamon rolls, coffee cake and brownies.

Beyond its signature Breakfast Bloom sandwiches and assortment of flavored coffees and Numi Organic Teas, The Bloom Café offers a greater service to the community that exceeds satisfying stomachs. As the new Paraquad enterprise, The Bloom Café held its grand opening on March 21 on 5200 Oakland Ave., but unlike most brunch restaurants, the staff dedicates itself to providing job training for people with disabilities.

Paraquad is a nonprofit, and its mission entails empowering people with disabilities to improve their independence through choice and opportunity. Its new café capitalizes a three-step regimen for the employees: A 12-week training program, paid internship and the culminating job placement.

The training curriculum will officially launch in June 2018 and will be held each spring, summer and fall thereafter. The sessions run Monday through Friday and provide lessons in food handling and preparation, customer service and proper work etiquette. Each student receives a ServSafe certification through the National Restaurant Association upon completion of the training.

From the training program, the trainees will become interns at The Bloom Café and partnering restaurants within the St. Louis area, so they can further advance their professional skills. The Bloom Café’s staff provides ongoing support to the interns through one-on- one job training. Upon completion of the internship, the interns will be considered “job ready,” but they will continue to receive support from Paraquad through resume writing, financial planning and job searching.

The brainchild of The Bloom Café blossomed from Paraquad’s mission to dispel the myths associated in hiring people with disabilities. On average, people with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed and live in poverty, according to The Bloom Café’s website. Attempting to counteract these statistics within the St. Louis area, Paraquad has been helping these people for over 45 years to receive the necessary training and skill building in preparation for their first job experience.

The Bloom Café is located adjacent to Paraquad, and the café showcases a vibrant atmosphere with windows surrounding its customers and flowers tended by workers at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Additionally, it features outdoor seating and a separate “garden room” for a business meeting or private party.

“Our goal is to be the go-to destination for good food, good service and good training opportunities for people with disabilities,” Paraquad President and CEO Aimee Wehmeier said.

The menu parallels the setting, providing fresh salads, signature soups in honor of its location in Dogtown, sandwiches—such as its 6-inch Bloom subs—and breakfast specials—such as breakfast burritos, scrambles and stratas. Accessibility was key in creating The Bloom Café and its menu. “We don’t want it to be really expensive, but we want it to be healthy and accessible to everyone,” Beth Jantz, project manager of The Bloom Café, said.

Running along the side of the café patio, the flower garden doubles as a vegetable garden, and fresh vegetables will be grown and used in the food. The Bloom Café’s culinary team is led by Culinary Director Joe Wilson, Chef Manager Jeremy Robinson and Pastry Chef Karen McKenney. The Bloom Café’s hours of operation are on Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For further information on its training program and menu, visit thebloom.cafe.

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Bloom Café Opens Doors For All