Mare Draper ’19 had a calling that she could not ignore. After a series of “signs,” Draper took a leap of faith and opened Beans Coffee House in Newark, Delaware, during a pandemic. This café is anything but ordinary. It serves as a safe place for teens and young adults who are suffering from anxiety, depression, and suicidal intentions to gain work experience.
The idea of owning a coffee shop with a purpose came to Draper while watching TV. She learned about a cafe run by young adults with Down syndrome called Bitty and Beau’s Coffee.
“I saw this five-minute segment and started thinking that would be such a cool thing to open,” Draper recalled.
Prior to becoming a coffee shop owner/barista, Draper worked as the director of religious education at Holy Family Church in Newark, Delaware. In addition to her Neumann degree, she also holds a master's certificate in pastoral studies with a concentration in youth ministry from Loyola University of New Orleans and has completed a clinical pastoral education certificate.
After working for 20 years in religious education, Draper realized that she was ready for a change, but that change had to include her passion – helping teens and young adults. From years of facilitating youth groups, Draper knew that kids needed a place where they felt comfortable to come and share their struggles and feelings. Witnessing those feelings in this population never left her mind.
Draper would frequent a small coffee house in Newark and became friends with the owner. In January 2020, the owner asked her if she would be interested in buying the shop. Draper, who had a nest egg stashed away, asked her husband Milt what he thought of the idea. He agreed that she should give it a shot. Then COVID hit and she shelved the idea of opening a business during the pandemic.
“I put it on the back burner and thought of other things. I was super down and I asked the Lord for guidance,” Draper said.
In late spring of 2020, Draper received an email from the coffee house owner who had dropped the selling price and basically made an offer that she could not refuse. Beans Coffee Shop was to become a reality and fulfill a larger purpose, to help fund a non-profit foundation focused on workforce development for young people with special needs.
“I love the idea of philanthropy. The coffee house was right around the corner from me. It was this little hole-in-the-wall place, but it was a place to call your own. I had been meeting friends and co-workers there for years,” Draper said.
The kids that work at Beans Coffee Shop are all volunteers. Most of them are in a recovery program or have recovered from mental issues that have crippled them socially. They learn to make and serve coffee as well as breakfast and lunch food items.
“They’re in an environment where they’re with their peers, and they feel more accepted and more worthy,” Draper explained.
After months of renovations, Beans Coffee House officially opened in September 2020. Draper is very proud to announce that the shop served its 500th cup of coffee on March 3, 2020.
“I have dumped a lot of my money into this, and COVID has not helped me, but I do think I’ve been called to do this stuff,” Draper said.
Draper can trace the formation of Beans Coffee House to Neumann University. Her daughter Rebecca graduated in 2015, and as Draper learned more about NU, she decided to enroll in the online Business and Organizational Studies major.
“I do attribute much of this to Neumann University. A lot of this came from the classes I took at Neumann,” she said of the coffee house and foundation.
Beans Coffee House is located at 249 E. Main Street in Newark, Delaware. The shop is opened Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For more information visit beanscoffeehouse.org.