October 29, 2020 | Greenwich Time

GREENWICH — When the Greenwich Library Cafe reopens later this year, it will be run by a completely new staff, will offer an entirely new menu and will be located in newly renovated space. The day-to-day operations of the cafe will be taken over by Abilis, a Greenwich-based organization that supports individuals of all ages with special needs. Eight individuals with disabilities will be employed there.

Abilis Cafe 102920


“The library’s goal from the beginning has been to respond to what patrons said was most important to them as we were developing the cafe,” said Barbara Ormerod-Glynn, director of the Greenwich Library. “And that was to make sure there was quality food, excellent service, in an inviting atmosphere, with good coffee and affordable prices,” she said. “And all of it is designed to provide a really welcoming community gathering space. And it’s such an extra bonus that we’ll be helping to support the important work of Abilis.” 

The Greenwich Library is mostly closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing renovation of the entire building. The cafe will be remodeled as part of the reimagining project. Ormerod-Glynn said she was impressed with Abilis’ application to run the new cafe and said the nonprofit’s goal for the space fit with the library’s mission. 

People with disabilities often face additional hurdles while trying to secure employment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Stamford mother Jeanne Peloso said she is pleased that the cafe is offering an opportunity for her son, Harrison, 24, to secure a job. Over the years, she has watched him grow and learn, thanks to the support programs at Abilis, which services more than 700 people with disabilities and their families. 

A resident of Pleasantville, N.Y., he has autism, auditory processing disorder and other learning issues. But he has overcome some of those challenges through employment training programs at Abilis and options for competitive employment. Harrison Peloso has previously worked in a corporate kitchen, Garden Catering, Marshalls and Belle Haven Club — all opportunities he secured with assistance from Abilis. 

“I feel like all the programs and all the training that he’s done over the last few years has led him to be skilled enough” to work, Jeanne Peloso said. And now Harrison Peloso and seven other people with disabilities will begin working in the library cafe. Once the cafe opens, two shift managers will train the eight employees and place them in positions based on their interests and strengths. For example, some employees might be more comfortable preparing food,  while others enjoy greeting customers at the door or working as a barista, Abilis leaders said.

“The goal is for people with special needs to be in the community working at the library. It’s not a training platform,” said Amy Montimurro, president and CEO of Abilis. “This is a great opportunity for those who are ready for competitive employment to work,” Montimurro said. “People with disabilities will have the opportunity to work (and) feel good about themselves.”

The Cafe at Greenwich Library is still under construction. It will be located in the newly remodeled lower level by the new Baxter Courtyard entrance. The new entrance is at street-level to promote accessibility. Once the cafe opens later this year, patrons can purchase salads, bagels, snacks and beverages. Local companies — including Garden Catering, Arcuri’s Pizza & Salad, Shearwater Coffee Roasters, Upper Crust Bagel Co., COBS Bread and Back Country Market & Cafe — are partnering with Abilis to help with training and provide food items for sale.

To start, the Library Cafe will offer online ordering with no-contact pickup during library hours when it opens later this year. The hours will be the same as no-contact pickup at the library for books and other items. The announcement about the opening of the new cafe comes as the community marks National Disability Employment Awareness Month. As part of the celebration, First Selectman Camillo acknowledged efforts by Abilis to secure jobs for individuals.

At the new library cafe, Harrison Peloso is still unsure what his job title will be, but he’s already planning for his first morning — “a blueberry muffin for breakfast,” he said. “They’re quick and easy, too.”