Java Joy serves up hugs and inclusion with each cup of coffee in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A newly launched business in San Francisco is aiming to serve up a side of inclusion and joy with each and every cup of coffee.

On a cold, dreary December day, there is something special brewing in each cup of Java Joy's joe.

"Would like some coffee? How about a hug?" smiles one barista, or "Joyristas" as their called, clad in a brown logo apron.

With a smile even brighter, a woman nods and accepts a cup.


"Honestly, it makes my heart feel very full!" she says.

Not just because of the coffee itself-but from the people, handing it out.

This is Java Joy, a company that started in Georgia in 2016 and employs those with disabilities. It's a population where the unemployment rate is a staggering 81-percent.

"We've got 11 hired in San Francisco, and we'll hire as many as we can," says Andrew Almeida, a venture capitalist who brought Java Joy to San Francisco.

But why did Java Joy decide to expand to San Francisco? It's expensive to do business here, especially compared to Georgia. The reason? Andrew says, because we need it.

"We're so go-go-go here and people are on their phones, listening to music," Almeida says. "This lets you take a second out of your day to stop, to breathe, to hug someone and to just have that uplifting experience."

Meantime, while businesses like PagerDuty hire Java Joy for a pop-up on their campus, it directly impacts their company culture.

"Some people were like what was this about? But they just open up and soften and have this sense of connection," says Olivia Khalili, Executive Director of Social Impact and Corporate Repsonsibility at PagerDuty.

The experience gives people like Nicky Stanley, who has been an employee of the Athens Georgia location since 2016, a chance to change their life.

"It makes me feel independent. Now I work with people. It's like I get a lot of help making orders and deliveries because every time I do those order and deliveries, I just spread my wings and FLY!" he smiles and gives us a high-five.

Java Joy has plans to expand all across the Bay Area, and eventually around the country. But what they really need right now is for people like you to book them for your next event so people like Nicky, and so many more can stay meaningfully employed and empowered.

To learn more about Java Joy, visit their website here.

Take a look at all of ABC7's Building a Better Bay Area stories and videos.

Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.