Cafe run by Cope residents puts down deeper ‘Roots’ in the local community

A new café in Montenotte is set to bring top notch coffee and cakes to the area as well as provide training and employment for young adults from the Cope Foundation, writes Ellie O’Byrne
Cafe run by Cope residents puts down deeper ‘Roots’ in the local community
Employess, trainees and some staff members outside the new Roots Coffee House at Beech Hill Garden Centre, Cope Foundation, Montenotte - (from left) Darren O'Riordan, Xean Landingen, Maurice Attikossie, Megan Butler, Stephen Carroll, Florin Nolan, Shirley Matthews (staff), Tracey Duggan, Síofra Leahy (staff), Cáit Harnedy and Frances Hamilton, project leader. Picture: Denis Minihane.

GREAT news for northside coffee-lovers: there’s a new café opened in Montenotte.

Roots Coffee House, which opened this week, has stunning views over Cork city, fair-trade coffee from Java Republic, and sweet treats from The Natural Foods Bakery.

But it’s far more than a nice place for local residents and visitors to enjoy a cup of coffee; it’s also a training centre for young adults from the Cope Foundation, who will learn about the art of barista, and cash-handling and customer service skills while working in the café.

When I dropped by, four baristas-in-training had gathered for the last stretch of the café renovations, in a building behind Beech Hill Garden Centre in Montenotte.

The final touches were being put on the café, and excitement was in the air.

All four young people, in their late teens and early twenties, have mild to moderate learning difficulties, and are attending the Cope Foundation’s Bonnington Training Centre, where there’s a focus on teaching independent living skills.

But as Florin Nolan from Cobh explains, “it’s nice to get out more. We’ll have our own training room next to the café. It’s about independence and being an adult.”

Florin has an interest in art and interior design and, as the café space comes together, he’s looking forward to choosing paintings and plants to decorate his new workspace.

Cáit Harnedy, from Killeagh, Co Cork, says she’s looking forward to the social aspects of her new job.

“I’m super-stoked to do this,” she says. “It’ll be an interesting experience to do it all together and it will be great to spend more time with my friends.

“Once I have all the training completed, I’ll like to see the customers happy and enjoying themselves.”

Roots Coffee House will source their coffee from Java Republic, an Irish coffee company that has been carbon neutral since 2011 and that sources fair trade varieties of coffee.

Roots’ future employees and trainees have already attended barista training days in Java Republic’s Bandon premises.

Maurice Attikossie, one of the baristas in training, making an Americano coffee in the new Roots Coffee House at Beech Hill Garden Centre, Cope Foundation, Montenotte. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Maurice Attikossie, one of the baristas in training, making an Americano coffee in the new Roots Coffee House at Beech Hill Garden Centre, Cope Foundation, Montenotte. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Maurice Attikossie, from Mahon, still has his reservations about using the state-of-the-art coffee machine and says that confidence can be an issue, but he’s keen to learn skills that can be used to find work in other businesses in the future.

Frances Hamilton is a senior supervisor at the Cope Foundation, and the project manager for Roots Coffee House.

Trainees at Roots will have the option to progress to employment in the café after developing their skills for a year, before finding other jobs placements with the help of a jobs coach, she explains.

“It’ll be very much on the job training and they’ll be doing QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) certification in things like customer service, communications and retail industry knowledge,” Frances says.

Beech Hill Garden Centre has been providing training opportunities to adults availing of the Cope Foundation’s services since the 1980s, and at one stage there was a café on the site too, but Frances says that a lack of resources meant the original café shut down.

Florin Nolan, one of the baristas in training, with tea pots in the new Roots Coffee House at Beech Hill Garden Centre, Cope Foundation, Montenotte. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Florin Nolan, one of the baristas in training, with tea pots in the new Roots Coffee House at Beech Hill Garden Centre, Cope Foundation, Montenotte. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“Every garden centre has a coffee shop now, and Montenotte has no café, so it was a bit of a no-brainer to get it up and running again,” she says.

Between staff at the Cope Foundation, local residents and garden centre customers, Roots has the customer base to be a fully functioning, commercially viable business.

“There’s no tokenism here,” Frances says. “We’re working with people who we feel are work-ready and we’ll really be doing all the work; it’s about them sharing ownership of the whole project.

“It’s on a social enterprise basis, where you measure the profit in social gain as much as financial gain.”

Cáit Harnedy (left) and Tracey Duggan, two of the barista trainees, relaxing outside the new Roots Coffee House at Beech Hill Garden Centre, Cope Foundation, Montenotte. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Cáit Harnedy (left) and Tracey Duggan, two of the barista trainees, relaxing outside the new Roots Coffee House at Beech Hill Garden Centre, Cope Foundation, Montenotte. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Frances says setting up Roots Coffee House has been a steep learning curve for the entire team, herself included; she doesn’t have any experience of café management, but has been helped along the way by friends and colleagues.

Roots has also received donations of appliances and equipment, including a commercial dishwasher from the Bons Secours hospital.

With their amazing views of Cork city, good quality coffee and a relaxed and friendly environment, she says Roots has a winning combination that will make it an ideal place to unwind over a coffee, in an area where cafés are in short supply.

“It’s an unbelievable setting: you couldn’t ask for a better location,” she says.

“The Montenotte Hotel is down the road and there’s a new café opening in Mayfield, but other than that there’s really nowhere to get a cup of coffee around here.

“I think we’ll be able to bring the customers in from the area, but I’d love to see the hip, cool crowd coming up from town too.”

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