Omaha coffee shop hires young adults aging out of foster care

Their second location will be in Atlas Apartments on California Street and it’s set to open in the coming weeks.
If you're looking for a new place to get your morning coffee and do some good while you're at it, we have a spot for you.
Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 7:11 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A cup of coffee that makes a difference.

When you buy a drink at Astute Coffee, formerly The Bike Union and Coffee at 19th and Dodge, you’re supporting teens and young adults aging out of the foster care system.

“When you think of the typical foster care situation, you think of a young person. But really, young adults are still impacted long after they exited the system. And that sort of trauma, the trauma that I carry and the trauma that they carry, doesn’t really go away very easily,” said Miah Sommer, founder of the company.

Sommer’s own hard childhood inspired him to create a workforce development nonprofit.

“While I was never in the foster care system, a CPS visit to our house definitely would have me taken away,” he said.

That’s why Sommer opened a business to hire young adults like Erick Alvarez. Alvarez was a foster care kid.

At 19, still in high school, his social worker recommended a job opportunity at what was then The Bike Union and Coffee. Not just because it pays, but because of the resources too.

Some of the most meaningful ones to Alvarez include, “mindfulness meditation, financial literacy, which is amazing especially not knowing a lot of financial literacy growing up.”

They also learn about nutrition and sexual health. The workshops are typically Thursdays and Fridays, and the topic alternates weekly.

A paycheck and knowledge are just two of the three main things former foster care kids get from the program. They also get another family.

“We all come from different backgrounds where family is something that we needed growing up. Finding it at this young age still, I think we just found that connection in each other that we needed,” said Tavionna Freemont, the shop’s manager.

Although Freemont was not in foster care, she participated in the workforce development program because she fit a profile that would benefit. Growing up she experienced hardship, and it wasn’t until later in life did she realize certain things aren’t “normal.”

“As a kid, you see things and think that’s the norm. As you grow up, you realize other kids aren’t going through that same kind of thing as you,” she said. “Moving a lot is not normal. Losing your house isn’t normal. Being evicted is not normal. Having family in jail isn’t normal. Having families with drinking problems is not normal...a supporting environment is what this place [Astute Coffee] is all about.”

Until recently the 19th and Dodge location wasn’t just a coffee shop. It was also a bike shop. It closed down not because of a lack of business. In fact, business was booming. But the owners felt it was taking away attention from their mission.

“How do we include the young people more? And then the answer was definitely expanding this coffee shop and then opening a second location,” said Sommer.

Astute Coffee currently employs 10 people, eight of which are from the workforce development program. In the past seven years since the program started, about 40 people have gone through it.

“We definitely don’t want to be a mile wide and an inch deep,” said Sommer.

Their second location will be in Atlas Apartments on California Street. Sommer said it’s set to open in the coming weeks. And it’s the support of loyal customers that makes helping these young adults possible.

“Being here just kind of gave me a purpose. It sparked something that made me want to change my life,” said Alvarez.