Sandy and Matt McMerty | The Gifted Bean Coffee House

Sandy McMerty on training day at The Gifted Bean Coffee House, located inside the Bismarck Public Library.

Sandy McMerty on training day at The Gifted Bean Coffee House, located inside the Bismarck Public Library.

Mighty Missouri Coffee is proud to partner with some great shops and wonderful people. In this series, we're interviewing the folks behind some of those cafes. If you love local, be sure to support them!

How did you get into coffee?
It was a happy accident and really happened in about 3 weeks’ time. We had been talking about finding an opportunity that could someday be a viable business/workplace for our son with Down syndrome. The library coffee shop has been part of those discussions and after a quick ask of the previous owners, what we thought might be a couple years down the road, was three weeks away and we thought … “Why not?” So, we took a deep breath and jumped into the coffee business.

On the tables at the Gifted Bean, you have a piece of paper with a “Big Dream.” Can you tell me about that?
The Gifted Bean Coffee House truly is the small start to a BIG dream. We look at job options for individuals with disabilities in the community and are somewhat disheartened by the limitations we seem to have set on them. Our dream is really that “Every Bean (human ‘beans too) is special.” This means we hope that Cristian (our now 14-year old) will someday own this business and that it will employ individuals of many abilities.  

"We're learning a lot about coffee,
but also about not being afraid
to chase a dream that many
would think is unattainable."

What has been the highlight of your coffee venture so far?
The fact that we’re in action, not just talking about this idea we’ve had since a baby with extra chromosomes entered our world. We’re learning a lot about coffee, but also about not being afraid to chase a dream that many would think is unattainable. We learned that you can be inspirational while being scared. And, that we like coffee as much a year later as we did when we started this BIG dream. 

From one big dreamer to another, what can you tell me about overcoming challenges to pursue big dreams?
It isn’t easy being a person who sees something others cannot. Sometimes you have to take bold steps, in our case caffeinated steps, to see if something will work. When faced with many of the challenges we’ve had as a family and in this business, we often ask, “What do we risk by not trying at all?” In the end, we decided that with this dream of our child with Down syndrome being a business owner, we’d rather try and fail then to never have tried at all. And who knows, success could be right there waiting for someone bold enough to approach it. 

If you could go back in time and talk to yourself one week into your venture, what would you say?
What the heck were you thinking?! Actually, I think we would tell us to hang on and know that what feels like chaos now might actually feel normal in the near future.

A lot of people who start something big have some outlets – music, sports… what are some of yours?
We were a busy family before the coffee shop and that hasn’t changed. We camp. We get out in the community. We’re active with Designer Genes – the local Down syndrome support network. We both have full-time jobs outside of coffee and kids in sports. Sleeping is our outlet.  

"We learned that you
can be inspirational
while being scared."

What would you tell someone who wants to pursue a big dream?

Make the decision yours. Start somewhere. -- Our big dream happened so quickly we barely had time to think, much less ask others for their opinion. We’re certain if we had sought those opinions they would have told us we were crazy. They’d have been right, but we now know that we kind of like crazy and we may not have been as brave as we were.

Has being part of a North Dakotan community fostered the growth of your venture? If so, how? 

Absolutely. None of this dream will work without community support, which is why we love our relationship with Mighty Missouri. (Keeping it in the community!) First, we need people to want to visit the shop and buy our products to support the idea of employment for individuals with unique talents. Ideally, we’d like to create an environment where we have individuals with disabilities on staff, and for any who would need extra assistance to complete their work we’d have community volunteers supporting them. The idea is to have places in our community where individuals of unique talents are valued and have meaningful work and a place to hang out. Perhaps we’ll inspire more places in North Dakota that do just that.

What are you listening to/reading right now?
 Sandy just finished The Alchemist and Matt is into The Lewis Man. We tend to read a little bit of everything. As for music, it's pretty wide ranging from classical to bluegrass and all the way to rock and metal.

Thank you! …Is there anything you’d like to add?
This really is our small start to the BIG dream. We thank everyone who has supported The Gifted Bean Coffee House so far and hope you will continue to in the future. Our gratitude is as big as the adventure we set out on, and we thank all those who have made even the smallest portions of this dream a reality. 

You can learn more about The Gifted Bean Coffee House at:

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