To our Winchester community,
For the past five years, Firefly Cafe and Bakery has been the public face of NW Works. The brainchild of former CEO John Brauer, Firefly was envisioned to not only serve delicious coffee and baked goods, but to serve our mission of empowering adults with disabilities and individuals with barriers to employment to build skills and secure and sustain meaningful employment. We did so by placing clients at Firefly to gain valuable experience working in an integrated setting, enabling them to move on to employment in other restaurants should they so choose. Clients from competing agencies even wound up working at Firefly, because the cafe’s purpose was bigger than just NW Works.
Over the five years the cafe has been open, much has changed. What started as a small bakery expanded to a dining room, and with that expansion, our team began hosting everything from live musicians and holiday parties to office hours for the governor. As we began preparing for our 5th anniversary celebration, we thought we’d seen it all. But like so many other small businesses across the country, we were wrong. We were not prepared for a global pandemic.
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the closure of Firefly Cafe and Bakery on September 30th. Anyone who has run a restaurant knows how fickle the industry can be, and the volatility during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic was more than our cafe could handle. Unfortunately, we are not the only business in this position. According to a recent report from Yelp, more than 50 percent of restaurants on the platform have closed permanently since March. The current climate is simply untenable for so many small businesses.
Yet in this moment, NW Works is choosing to double-down on our mission. Now, more than ever, people with disabilities and others facing barriers to employment need our services as our nation heads further into uncertain economic waters. That is why we are choosing to turn all of our attention to improve and expand our supported employment programs, whether that is serving individuals one-on-one or in a Group Supported Employment capacity out in the community. The clients who worked at Firefly Cafe will continue to receive services from us and will be placed elsewhere to continue meeting their personal career goals. Additionally, NW Works is dedicated to assisting the cafe’s other staff members find their next position, with career counseling and resume-writing support.
If we may, we’d like to close this letter with a request for you: when possible, choose local. The effects of this pandemic will be far-reaching and greater than we can imagine. We know our friends at other local cafes would appreciate your support the way Firefly has for all these years.
CEO, NW Works