Coffee is so much more than a drink. People socialize quietly at tables in shop corners, the act of “meeting for coffee” a universal invite to simply sit for a while and catch up. Coffee, it can be argued, is its own love language between family, friends and co-workers in need of a break and leg stretch during the day.
At HullHouse Coffee, a simple cup of coffee means so much more than the fabulous smell of roasted beans and display of foam art. As much as coffee might bring to customers’ lives, swinging by this adorable coffee shop in the Northland enriches its employees’ lives more than you can ever know.
John and Kim Hull want what every parent wants for their three children – safety, happiness and support to live the fullest life possible. As their youngest, Charlie, approached the time in his life when many children leave the nest, the Hulls knew that his next step would look a bit different. The work opportunities for Charlie and young adults like him with intellectual disabilities are limited, but the Hulls wanted to make sure that his next life chapter was full of opportunity and growth. So, after researching job possibilities, they decided to move forward with an entrepreneurial adventure as a family by opening a coffee shop — without any background in coffee, except for the appreciation of a great brew.
Fast forward through a lot of preparation, training and logistics and you’ll now see HullHouse Coffee greeting you at Metro North Crossing off of Barry Road. Walk into the charming coffee shop and Charlie greets you at the counter, a 19-year-old with sparkling eyes and a smile that lights up the room. He’s sporting a gray newsboy cap similar to one his dad wears, and a HullHouse t-shirt that proudly displays his position on the team. With a little assistance from his mom, he works the point of sale transactions on the tablet while Kim makes a vanilla latte nearby, an efficient duo serving a steady stream of customers on a snowy afternoon. Ask Charlie if he drinks coffee and he’ll answer “no” with a grin, his preferred drink root beer. That doesn’t stop him from serving each cup of coffee with a grateful smile, however, because it’s the new friends that he makes each day that is the best part of his job.
“Charlie’s a big helper,” Kim says. “He loves saying hi to people and meeting new friends. He works hard and helps mom and dad out all the time.” The youngest of three, Charlie’s older siblings J.T. and Paige work in the Kansas City area and are proud of their brother and parents’ new endeavor.
“He’s meeting new people every day, so there’s more exposure and socialization,” Kim says, explaining that the shop offers opportunities for Charlie and others to feel the same sense of accomplishment that everyone else feels after a workday.
Leaving a career in nursing to pursue this new adventure with her family, Kim felt the same doubt and fear that anyone would when leaving a longstanding profession to start something new, but she embraces this change as an exciting new chapter. “I feel like this is what I’m supposed to do right now.”
Since opening in November 2023, the HullHouse Coffee team has grown to add two additional young adult employees to their team – Eni and Nick – both of whom came into the shop with their parents and learned about the opportunities that the shop could provide them. Eni is thriving in her role behind the counter with Charlie and Nick is learning about the roasting process with John. Providing these employment opportunities for young adults like Charlie is exactly what the Hulls had hoped for when opening HullHouse Coffee.
“They don’t feel different here,” Kim says. “They’re just part of the community.”
Go on the shop’s social media account and you’ll see more than images of cups of coffee; you’ll read posts that encourage everyone to dig a little deeper when it comes to looking at life and our place in it. In a feed that includes videos of warm espresso being drizzled over vanilla ice cream, you’ll read welcome messages to new team members and see photos of merchandise available in the store that reminds us that kindness is the best way to keep cool. Designed by students at Plattsburg High School, the Tiger Threads t-shirt business is run by members of the Special Education Functional Skills classroom that Charlie was once a member of, and allows students to design, create and sell products to earn practical skills and help raise funds for the program.
As for 2024, Kim hopes to continue to grow their team and place in the community. Although opening the business was a risk, everything’s looking bright for this cozy little corner in the Northland that provides so much more than coffee with every cup.
434 NW Legacy Drive, Kansas City
“They don’t feel different here. They’re just part of the community.”
“I feel like this is what I’m supposed to do right now.”