The Friendship Circle of Wisconsin, directed by Rabbi Levi and Leah Stein, will expand in the next few months.
A new, 6,500 square-foot Friendship Circle complex is under construction, with plans for completion in December of 2019, the Jewish Chronicle reported.
In 2017, The Friendship Circle of Wisconsin launched the Friendship Bakery, which trains local people with special needs on the job even as they produce professional-quality baked goods. Under the guidance of an experienced pastry chef over the last two years, the baked goods menu has grown. The endeavor has expanded beyond home delivery to include some shelf space in Sendik’s Food Market.
The new space will expand the capabilities of the Friendship Circle’s bakery and programming. The complex will include a large kosher coffee shop open to all, an art studio and a huge kitchen.
The plan is that people with special needs will be working alongside professional baristas, so that participants can learn workplace skills while delivering a “five star” coffee shop experience for customers, Levi told the Jewish Chronicle.
The coffee shop will be kosher certified, and it will not be open on Shabbat. Construction in the space started in July and the coffee is expected to start flowing for the public at some point over the next few months.
Friendship Circle of Wisconsin currently borrows a local Chabad-Lubavitch kitchen on a part-time basis – at 3109 N. Lake Drive in Milwaukee – to operate Friendship Bakery. It’s not a space for a crowd. Even the current maximum of three participants at a time, with staff, can be tight.
“What’s inspiring us to grow is that our limitation right now is time and space,” Levi said, but added: “The main inspiration for us growing is that we will be able to impact many more people with special needs with employment training (to achieve) long term employment.”
Besides the coffee shop, the complex will include Friendship Studio – an art room.
This will be a spot for “everything from pottery, to mixed media art, to screen printing and much more,” Levi said. “There will be daily open hours for the general community and time for events for kids and/or adults. You will also be able to rent the space for a birthday party and get the food from the bakery for other similar events.”