Providing opportunities

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 2, 2024

Jack & the Bean allows those with special needs to gain independence, work experience

By Dawn Nolan

For The Ironton Tribune

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KENOVA, W.Va. — At Jack & the Bean Coffee Company, “opportunity is served with every cup.”

The Kenova coffee shop, located in the former Chatterbox restaurant on Poplar Street, is open

on Wednesday mornings from 6 a.m.-10 a.m. It supports individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities to gain independence and self-esteem through work experience and community engagement opportunities. 

Former WSAZ anchor, Melanie Shafer Adkins, and her friend Beth Doak, came up with the idea for the business. Adkins was inspired by her 21-year-old son, Jack. Jack is Adkins’ third child of five. He was diagnosed with autism as a toddler and is now in his last year of public school. 

“As a mom with a special needs child, that 21 mark is like a mountain that looms ahead of you,” Adkins described. “We were trying to figure out what was going to be next for Jack. He loves a schedule and he loves meeting people and being engaged. We thought we’d try a coffee service, because we had seen successes in other areas of the country.”

Jack & the Bean received its business license in March 2022 and starting doing small pop-up coffee services at West Edge Factory in Huntington. 

“Jack loved it,” Adkins recalled. “So, we added more events and kept growing.” 

A partnership with Diversified Assessment & Therapy Services, where Jack had been receiving services for years, was established in September 2023. 

Jack & the Bean began serving customers inside Diversified’s renovated Day Center facility that month.  

“The purpose of our day program is to integrate people with disabilities in the community to learn job training and social skills, and this partnership has allowed the people that we serve to gain those skills, develop relationships with customers and become an integral part of the community.” explains Morgan Thompson, Diversified’s day program director. “It’s a great feeling; there’s no other place like this. Everybody belongs, and you know that you’re going to leave with a smile.” 

“A dear friend and Diversified’s Director of Business Services, Jamie Berry, and I had been collaborating on how to utilize the ‘dayhab’ and grow Jack & the Bean. Ashton Harrison, a behavioral support personnel, was also hugely instrumental in getting things together, marketing and holding my hand as we made the big jump to a brick-and-mortar location. Without those two, it never would have happened!”

While Jack & the Bean is only open one day a week currently, there has been talk about adding another to     the schedule.

“We’ve dipped our toe into the brick-and-mortar,” Adkins said. “Going forward, we’re planning to do one weekend day a month on a trial basis, and see what the response is like. It does need to stay viable.”

The team at Jack & the Bean is made up of Jack, along with baristas Sarah, Ricky, Randy, Hannah and Ali. The baristas were all trained prior to opening in how to take an order and how to speak to customers. They are shadowed and, if needed, given verbal prompts and nonverbal cues from Adkins and some of Diversified’s job coaches throughout service to ensure each customer’s drink is made correctly.  

“We try to be as far back in that process as possible and let them take the lead,” Adkins explained. “The whole goal is for them to be independent.” 

The support that Jack & the Bean has received from the community thus far has, as Adkins described, been “heartwarming and overwhelming.” 

“We now have a whole group of regular, new friends that come and visit us,” Adkins said. “It’s so fun to see how excited they get when new people come in.

Gwen Clayton, an Ashland resident who works in Huntington, is one of                   those regulars. 

“I look forward to starting my Wednesday mornings with a hot cup of coffee, tea or cocoa from Jack & the Bean,” she said. “It’s my weekly reminder that there is still good in the world. The pride and friendly atmosphere is the magic ingredient.”

Even with the space, Jack & the Bean will continue to cater and set up at events. 

“We can go big or we can go small,” Adkins explained. “We’ve done a wedding shower, a baby shower, Valley Health’s Christmas Party. When we started our mobile service, we served six cups of coffee at an insurance agency. We will always do private events because I feel like there are a lot of people who can’t get here and that way they can support us.”

Another way to support Jack & the Bean’s mission is through an online donation at 

“We received our 501(c)(3) non-profit status over the summer, so anyone that wants to donate our efforts can do so,” Adkins said. “We appreciate any community support that we receive.” 

For Adkins, the decision to start Jack & the Bean has been a “big learning curve,” but one that she doesn’t regret at all. 

“I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’ve loved partnering with Diversified. They have been so generous and helpful. I can’t say enough good things about them. We wouldn’t have been able to make it as a brick-and-mortar without their generosity,” Adkins said. “I also want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone that has come by to show us some love, meet our crew and watch them shine. They have really, really grown in their independence, and I am so proud of each of them.”  

Jack & the Bean Coffee Company is located at 1404 Poplar Street in Kenova. Hours are Wednesdays from 6-10 a.m. Call 304-633-0105, email or visit for more information. Follow Jack & the Bean on Facebook by searching ‘Jack & the Bean Coffee Company.’