Canton Coffee Shop Aims To Include All, Even Those With Disabilities

Owner: "just bring a little understanding to the table"

Location and price are what most business owners consider before opening up shop.

But for one Canton mom, focusing on a place where her daughter fits in and is welcome, was the number one priority.

“We love coffee shops and we were always running to Sioux Falls because there wasn’t one here,” says Carla Lems.

Those in Canton don’t have to look far for gourmet coffee or a place to relax and catch up with friends.

“The way we’re treated, I think it’s a very friendly place,” says Marcia Vanginkel of Harrisburg.

But that’s not the only reason why Carla Lems opened up shop last November.

“We have a daughter who has down syndrome,” says Lems. “We said what a great opportunity to have something here in town that would benefit the community but also be something she could be involved with.”

Lems took it a step further, naming the shop after her daughter calling it Laura’s Lattes.

Every morning Laura comes in around 8:30.

“I clean the bathroom, and I clean the dishes and I clean off tables, empty the garbage, that kind of stuff,” explains Laura.

Lems says the job not only gives her daughter structure in the sense of having a schedule and something to do, but it also shows the public that those with disabilities are able to have a job.

“If you can just tap into those people and get to know them on an individual basis, and begin to see what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are, usually there’s a fit for them,” says Lems.

The latte shop is Laura’s.

Even though she’s not a fan of coffee, “I love orange soda.”

The customers are a fan of her.

“This morning we had a nice visit with her,” says frequent customer Joan Caswell.

“[It was] mostly about her birthday,” adds Vanginkel. “She was making sure we come to her birthday party next year so we’re looking forward to that.”

Lems says people with disabilities are very committed to what they do and they love being appreciated.

She says she hopes her shop encourages other families and business owners to give a person with a disability a chance.

“Whether there’s some kind of niche that they can fill in your business or as a volunteer in your community, just to include them and not push them to the side, but think what can I do to fit someone in with a disability into my life.”