Dance parties at work might not happen often at your workplace, but at No Limits Cafe in Red Bank, their occurrence is only natural in an environment where you are always served with a smile. No Limits Cafe, a cafe that employs people with intellectual disabilities, was founded by Stephanie and Mark Cartier, and inspired by their 22-year old daughter Katie who has Down Syndrome.
No Limits Cafe was in the works for about two years and came about as Stephanie thought about Katie’s adulthood prospects once she turned 21. Stephanie said “That point at an adult with an intellectual disability’s life is called ‘falling off the cliff ’, and there’s no real jobs, there’s no college, there’s not a lot to do.”
In order to avoid that fate for Katie, and as a result of the amount of people they knew with intellectual disabilities in Monmouth County, the Cartiers thought about opening a restaurant to provide employment for these individuals. Stephanie said although her family did not have any restaurant experience (aside from eating at them, of course!), they did research on other restaurants, and were even mentored at a Texas restaurant, which solidified their passion and belief in their cause.
No Limits Cafe hires people on all ends of the intellectual disability spectrum; there are people in wheelchairs, who can’t read, or who are nonverbal, but they fit seamlessly into the cafe’s environment. Publisher of VUE NJ, Jason Underberg has a personal connection with the employees there, as his sister-in-law, Hayley Lawrence was recently promoted to a managerial position. However, the unemployment rate for people with intellectual disabilities sits at a staggering 80%, despite the multitude of restaurants in the Monmouth County area. No Limits Cafe’s opportunity for employment at a restaurant reminds others that people with intellectual disabilities can cook, prepare food, and provide service.
“There’s something for everybody to do,” Stephanie said. “Some people can only toast bread, some people can only do dishwashing.” These are not considered limitations, though, contributing to the cafe’s name and overall philosophy. Stephanie said “We’re all the same; some people might just need a little more time, or a little more help.”
Help is unconditionally provided by No Limits Cafe, especially as they plan to incorporate evening training for adults with intellectual disabilities who are not currently working. No Limits Cafe plans to support these adults, while simultaneously helping them to be independent and accept other job offers outside of the cafe. There are ways, however, that people can get involved and support No Limits for all of the work that they do.
Stephanie said, “Of course we always need donations… we run on donations, and all donations go back to the employees.” People can also volunteer their time, and businesses can place large orders for office catering, which will widen the scope of No Limits Cafe’s clientele. However, to Stephanie, “The best way that anyone can help us is that if you, or your employer, are hiring, hire someone with an intellectual disability.”
No Limits Cafe started out as nothing more than an idea, and has now received coverage in The New York Times, The Two River Times, and ABC News for its mission and its pivotal role in reducing unemployment for adults with intellectual disabilities. “We wanted to do something big that showed all of our community what people with intellectual disabilities are capable of, and we believe that every human has value,” Cartier said.