Inclusion-focused coffee shop in No. Smithfield wins international support, praise

Shiela and Michael Coyne speak on Canadian-based CTV News.

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Red White and Brew Coffee Shop has been featured on CBS News, People magazine, Fox News, ABC and even a Canadian news program.

The business has 7,600 followers on Facebook and nearly 200 positive reviews.

And the Great Road business has only been open since early November.

Visitors will find that the shop has all that you’d expect from a small-town coffee house.  Lattes and espresso are on the menu, and guests sip their brews at small wood tables holding festive seasonal decor. Tasty-looking muffins, pastries and calzones are on display in glass cases by the checkout counter.

But the staff, and the story behind the decision to open the North Smithfield business, are what make it stand out.

Michael Coyne, a 23-year-old Harrisville man living with autism and bipolar disorder, reportedly opened the business after three years of unsuccessful job hunting. Now, he and other members of the Coyne family hope to help others find employment in the inclusive environment here, and an adjoining vendor space dubbed The Budding Violet.

“We are a family owned coffee shop serving up more than a cup of coffee,” notes the business mission statement. “We employ people with developmental disabilities, encourage community engagement, and change the way the world sees those with disabilities.”

Coyne took business classes through Rhode Island Developmental Disability Center prior to launching his own endeavor, and can be found working the register most days. The business sells everything from hats and t-shirts marked with the Red White & Brew logo, to truffles, and pastries from nearby Wright’s Farm Bakery.

In The Budding Violet, vendor space allows people with and without disabilities to sell their wares including crafts, furniture and other handmade items.

It isn’t too surprising that locals have been supportive, with everyone from the police chief, to friends of the family stopping in for a hot drink or a bite. This weekend, local car collective Low Life Standards will begin hosting monthly events at the business.

More unexpected is guests who have traveled for hours for a cup of Red White & Brew joe.

Well-wishers from California, New York and New Mexico have written words of encouragement and guests from as far as Maine have posted positive reviews. Recently, a man drove from North Easton, Mass. to donate a framed American flag.

“We are so humbled by the outpouring of support,” noted a post from the business on social media. “It has truly been nothing short of amazing. People came to visit us from all over New England.”

Earlier this month, Coyne and his mother Sheila Coyne were interviewed for Canadian CTV News.

“I think it’s difficult for anyone with a disability,” said Sheila. “There’s a stigma. There’s a misconception for what they can and cannot do. What they’re capable of.”

“I just love socializing with people,” said Michael.

Red White & Brew is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The shop is currently closed for holiday break and will reopen on Sunday, Dec. 29.

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