Atlanta Is Home To The South’s First Inter-Abilities Coffee Shop

The community hub offers a place at the table for everyone.

Gathering around the table is an integral part of Southern culture. Often the hub of the home, the dinner table is where some of the best memories are made. Discussions might include just how much sugar was in grandma’s famous hummingbird cake, whether the home team will have a chance against its rival under the Friday night lights, or where everyone should go on their next family vacation. Southerners will say that some of their biggest life lessons and happiest memories happened around the dinner table.

How It Started

For some, however, getting to that communal table is challenging. That’s why Katherine and Jay Wolf devised Mend, the first accessible coffee shop and community gathering place of its kind in Atlanta. Katherine experienced a massive brain stem stroke in April of 2008, and against all odds, has become an inspirational speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Her husband, Jay, has been by her side every step of the way, including the big dreams of opening Mend.

“Katherine didn't eat for a year after her stroke, and there is something so sacred about sitting around the table, especially in a disembodied digital age,” explains Jay. Mend is the couple’s answer to an inclusive, community-centric space.

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What Makes Mend So Special

Located in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, Mend provides more than employment for those with disabilities. “Part of our mission has been about creating an interability community. It's not just focused on people with disabilities but creating a bigger and better table,” Jay says.

At the Wolfs’ coffee and retail shop, creating an inclusive atmosphere means a beautifully appointed space with unique details. In an if-you-know-you-know sort of way, these custom details aren’t noticeable to the naked eye. An able-bodied person simply sees quartz countertops, brass finishes, and Parisian-inspired cafe chairs, but there’s much more at work behind the scenes.

“We have designed tables that swivel up and down to meet the heights of wheelchair users and their guests, and we have cushions available, so everyone can be at the same level as the wheelchair user,” gushes Katherine.

Other details include double-layer sound paneling to decrease sound for those with sensory sensitivity and a smaller room with curtains that can be pulled close for anyone experiencing overstimulation. Mirrors in the bathroom tilt downward, and there’s no hand dryer because of the noise. 

One of the most prevalent additions is having an adult changing table in the restroom, so there is a dignified, comfortable, and private place for refreshing. “It's inspired by our dear friends Meade and Mary Elizabeth Stone whose [late] son John Stone, had several disabilities including being nonverbal and nonmobile,” says Katherine.

Even the menu has been thoughtfully curated. “Once I started eating again after my stroke, I had a new appreciation for delicious food, so I think I'm a pretty good amateur critic at this point,” Katherine says with a laugh. That meant serving pastries from her favorite bakery in Atlanta, The Buttery, was a must. The Wolfs partnered with bakery owner and acclaimed chef Linton Hopkins to make it happen. The coffee is roasted by Bellwood Coffee, another local small business. Other food items are made in-house.

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What's Next

The Wolfs have big plans for Mend, including book clubs, adaptive exercise classes, creative writing workshops, networking, and grief support groups. It is their hope it will become a community resource. “When we walked in the space [for the first time], Katherine and I both got teary. Seeing people make this a part of their life, whether on the actual team or as guests, is pretty breathtaking because that's the heart of it—to make this table for people to come to and for their hearts to be mended up a little bit,” says Jay.

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Read the original article on Southern Living.