Annie Strus, Barista, holding a milk steamer at an espresso machine

Brewing Success: Annie’s Employment Journey at a Local Yellowknife Coffee Shop

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“Annie was a customer of the café before she became our employee. Her dream was to work here, and we were able to make it a reality. We wanted her to evolve in an environment that gives her the opportunity to progress, in the same way as other employees.”

Rami Kassem from “Yellowknife Coffee Shop Celebrates Everyday Diversity and Inclusion” (2021)

In the summer of 2021, we met with Annie Strus, a very talented barista, and Rami Kassem, the owner of JavaRoma Gourmet Coffee & Tea, a beloved local coffee shop in Yellowknife. People loved coming to this place to enjoy great coffee and have meaningful conversations. Annie joined the café in March 2019 through the Ready, Willing, and Able (RWA) program, which supports people with intellectual disabilities or on the autism spectrum, to be part of the workforce.

When we last talked about them, Rami said he wanted Annie to have more than just a job; he wanted her to have a chance to grow in the company. Now, two years later, we came back to see how things were going for Annie and Rami.

Since our last visit, the coffee shop and Annie have done really well. Rami notes, “JavaRoma has grown and opened a fourth location, and more people are coming to enjoy their coffee. Annie’s place is very popular, so she has more things to do to keep up with all the customers. She has become really good at making and serving drinks, knows the menu very well, and keeps everything clean and tidy. Annie also makes sure the service is excellent and learns about new things in the coffee industry. It’s a big step up for Annie, especially because things were slower during the pandemic.”

On the left: Owner, Rami Kassem, On the right: Barista, Annie Strus, Java Roma Gourmet Coffee & Tea.

On the left: Owner, Rami Kassem, On the right: Barista, Annie Strus, Java Roma Gourmet Coffee & Tea.

Working at JavaRoma has helped Annie in her personal life too. Annie says, “I have made good friends with my coworkers and feel like a part of a special community.” She likes talking and spending time with her coworkers when she’s not working.

During our chat, we found out that Annie’s job at the coffee shop has made a big difference in her life. Since our last talk, she got her driver’s license. Now she can drive on her own and feel more independent. Annie lives with a roommate and enjoys having her freedom. Even on her days off, she likes to go to JavaRoma because it’s not just a job for her; it feels like a happy community.

Annie really loves her work and how she’s grown at JavaRoma. She’s been there for five years, and it shows how hardworking and determined she is. Annie has learned a lot and made strong connections with her coworkers. Her experience at JavaRoma Gourmet Coffee & Tea shows how important it is to have a place where everyone feels welcome and supported.

JavaRoma Gourmet Coffee & Tea keeps doing well, thanks to Rami and other managers who care about making everyone feel included. Rami thinks other businesses should also hire people with different abilities because it can make the workplace better for everyone.