Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
A local cafe and a nonprofit that serves youth have brewed up a new venture, one that will help expand the reach of the business beyond its downtown location while also helping high school and college-age youth gain some valuable job and life skills.
The Stellar Satellite mobile unit is only part of the growth plans announced recently by Stellar Cafe, the local eatery on North Main Street owned by Anne Baker. The trailer is a joint venture with Chaves County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), which will manage and staff the unit as a way to help youth prepare for life and careers.
Most of the other changes Stellar has planned will occur in 2022, but the mobile unit started operations on Tuesday in the parking lot directly to the west of Sunwest Centre, the office complex in the 500 block of North Main Street.
The trailer’s name is a play on words, indicating not only that it is an outpost of the main cafe but also reflecting the aerospace and planetary science themes the cafe uses for its design and branding.
“The goal is to be convenient to sell our coffee, pastries and frappes for people who are located in that building as well as the government buildings that are surrounding it, the federal building and City Hall,” Baker explained.
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Sunwest Centre is also where CASA has its offices.
The plan now is for the Stellar Satellite to operate 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in the parking lot, with Baker indicating that it will be parked behind Stellar Cafe during downtown events or special events, such as the arts and crafts “boot” sales planned for the parking area. The mobile unit hours are expected to expand when more CASA youth are trained.
The unit also is available for local organizations that want to schedule it, Baker said. A group already expressing interest, she said, is the Roswell Museum and Art Center for its Second Saturdays community and youth events.
“We are hoping to possibly locate it at other places, like possibly school-run events or at sporting events or at Cielo Grande,” Baker said.
Baker said that planning for the mobile unit began in the spring, but she and others had envisioned a project like it for a while.
“It has always been a dream of mine to have a mobile unit eventually,” Baker said. “It turns out it was also a big dream of Megan Cederberg.”
Cederberg has worked for five years with Chaves County CASA, which helps abused, abandoned, neglected or at-risk youth. She now has the title of social venturist.
“In my time working at CASA working with youth, one of the things I have noticed is that they have a lack of job preparation,” Cederberg said. “They maybe don’t know how to interview or they don’t know how to work at a job. … I really felt that it could be an advantage to my kiddos if I could give them that job preparation. So it has been a dream of mine for a couple of years now to open some type of business where I could only employ CASA kiddos.”
A cafe mobile unit wasn’t just a pipe-dream for Cederberg. She previously had worked for Baker at Stellar Cafe and she has added familiarity with the industry because Daniel, her husband, grew up working in his parents’ coffee shop business.
Cederberg shared her idea for the mentoring and job-training venture with Carrie-Leigh Cloutier, CEO of CASA, who obtained a grant that enabled CASA to buy the mobile truck used by Stellar.
“Anne and Megan are visionaries,” Cloutier said. “I am incredibly proud of their hard work and collaboration that will mean so much for young people.”
Stellar provides the inventory and pays the staff for the Stellar Satellite, while Cederberg, paid by CASA, manages the project and the CASA youth employees.
“The actual Stellar trailer is supposed to be self-sustaining,” Baker added. “It is not a nonprofit. It is supposed to be making its own way out there. It requires a staff to really work hard at it.”
Cederberg said she has three employees so far. One is still attending high school. Another is earning a graduate equivalent degree (GED), which has an entrepreneurial focus. The third is in the process of starting a GED program.
She said that youth from difficult backgrounds and life experiences often have very low self-esteem that can hamper their achievements and motivation.
“I want to build my youth’s ability to speak for themselves in empowering ways,” Cederberg said. “That’s the key to a successful community, that everyone feels worthy, and then you have a better community.”
She said she is already seeing a difference with the Stellar Satellite employees expressing more self-confidence, a stronger work ethic and more goal-setting desires.
The mobile unit is only a part of Baker’s plans for changes at Stellar.
Another is to turn the large back room into a dining area for customers as well as an event and meeting space that could be rented by other groups. The space has been occupied by Moon Rock Outfitters.
“Moon Rock Outfitters has grown astronomically after only two years in operation and they have outgrown their space,” she said.
The bicycle repair shop — which also is involved in community service projects — will move to a retail location fronting North Main Street that is still part of the same building where Stellar is located, Baker said. That should happen in early 2022, and, when it does, the Stellar dining area will increase and an expanded brunch menu on Sundays will be offered.
Later, probably in fall 2022, Baker plans to build a permanent outdoor patio behind the cafe to replace the temporary tent that exists there now. She said that plans are for it to have a roof and open sides, with enough seating for 20 to 25 people. Baker said that the outdoor area would be a great place to grill specialty sausages, and she wants Stellar to have its own wine and beer license eventually.
In the shorter term, Stellar has made some changes to operating hours. Baker said the pandemic and all the stresses that put on businesses and employees made her reevaluate the operations.
“Customers had been asking us to stay open until 9 (p.m.) again, and I would love to stay open until 9,” she said. “But as a primarily breakfast, brunch and lunch facility, it just wasn’t financially feasible to stay open until 9 every day.”
The new hours for the downtown location are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
“All of my staff is getting a good, long shift and they are getting good, long hours,” she said. “We are doing this as a way to help us focus on what we do best and also to benefit our staff as well.”
Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at email@example.com.