Foley-Hughes, 34, takes special pride in his ability to make and serve lattes he pours and decorates with microfoam.
"I love the food, I love our cafe, and I love the Palo Alto community," he said.
And now, thanks to a collaboration with another local organization serving people with disabilities, the cafe is preparing to broaden its scope.
As early as the end of this year, pending permitting and logistics, Ada's plans to expand its catering operations and production of jam, granola and dog biscuits at the nonprofit AbilityPath's commercial kitchen located near the cafe.
Kathleen Foley-Hughes, Ada's founder and executive director, said she has been interested in collaborating with AbilityPath for about a decade, because Ada's Cafe often hires people taking living skills classes through the organization.
During the pandemic, she met with AbilityPath CEO Bryan Neider to discuss how the two nonprofits might be able to work together. She described that meeting as "Ada's pandemic pivot."
After that initial meeting, plans to renovate the unused commercial kitchen at AbilityPath's Middlefield Road campus into an efficient catering space took shape over the next two years as Ada's and AbilityPath worked together on designing the new kitchen.
"While our participants and staff work in commercial kitchens, that doesn't mean we necessarily know how to design and build one to meet the needs of a very robust catering business and social enterprise that Kathleen had in mind," Nieder said.
Funded through private donations and grants from Santa Clara County, the new kitchen will provide space for AbilityPath's independent living skills classes and will enable Ada's to provide opportunities for those who want to build their experience in the culinary arts and hospitality industry.
Peter Foley-Hughes, Charlie's twin brother who helps run the cafe, said that demand for Ada's jam, granola and dog biscuits has become greater than the shelf space available at the cafe. Once production ramps up in the new commercial kitchen, the nonprofit plans to distribute the products locally and sell them online.
"Those are three pre-packaged products that would do well, hopefully, on the shelves of other stores, because of the mission behind how it's being produced," he said.
These products support a local nonprofit, but they also stand on their own as high-quality, Kathleen Foley-Hughes said. Ada's staff collaborates with Common Roots Farm in Santa Cruz to source fruit for their jam, she said, and when the cafe hosted a blind taste test in November 2022 for regular customers, Ada's jam won handily.
"We were very excited about that," she said.
Increasing production of these pre-packaged products will create job opportunities for people who can only work limited hours or who are not ready to work in a retail environment, said Kathleen Foley-Hughes.
Before the brick-and-mortar cafe opened in 2014, she started Ada's as a volunteer project in the Palo Alto Unified School District to provide vocational training for her son, Charlie, and other people with disabilities, including traumatic brain injuries, Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorders. The nonprofit also conducts research on how to improve workplaces for people with disabilities and on hiring, training and empowering people with disabilities in the commercial food service industry.
Ada's currently operates its food business in a commercial kitchen in Mountain View, but the nonprofit has struggled in recent years due to increased rent and rising food costs. Kathleen Foley-Hughes said the nonprofit could eventually move all of its operations into the new commercial kitchen at AbilityPath, pending on how the two organizations share the space.
"We're figuring out how we can best work together logistically," Peter Foley-Hughes said.
Nieder said the goal is for those who train in the kitchen to be able to eventually work in Ada's Cafe, corporate cafeterias or find other culinary opportunities,
"It's a very robust approach to culinary training and services," he said.
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