Riverside Coffee Shop: Coffee With A Cause


Riverside Coffee Shop: Coffee With A Cause Riverside Coffee Shop straddles the edge of Farragut and Lenoir City. It offers hot and iced coffees, seasonal drinks, smoothies, teas, pastries, sandwiches and breakfast items. The shop even offers curbside pick-up, drive-thru service, and DoorDash delivery for customer convenience. While the products and services are quite typical for a standard coffee shop, this business offers so much more to the community.

Riverside Coffee Shop is an employer and vocational training program for adults with disabilities. Its unique concept, real world education, and AMAZING aroma of coffee and pastries is worth your visit! 

Angela Lee, the founder and owner of ABA Next Steps: Riverside Coffee Shop, is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst. She also has a son with Down Syndrome. After many years of learning about programs and employment opportunities for adults with disabilities, she was disheartened by the limited options. She thought many did not offer a chance for individuals to reach their full potential. “In my previous job, I felt like I couldn’t really make a difference. So I quit,” stated Ms. Lee. Riverside’s head teacher, Faye Presley, is a former public school special education teacher. She said, “I wanted to really teach! And I was up to my eyeballs in IEPs. I discovered this was my dream job.” Both ladies agreed that starting the Riverside Coffee Shop allotted them the freedom to teach useful daily living and employment skills that they were often unable to achieve in other programs.    

Riverside Coffee Shop employs and educates 11 students between the ages of 18 and 24. Each student participates in a two-day per week program; there is a Monday/Wednesday group and a Tuesday/Thursday group. Programming includes eight-week blocks that teach  different sets of skills.

In addition to paid work rotations, students receive training in:  

  • Money math (e.g., accepting cash and credit card payments, paycheck handling, using a debit card) 
  • Customer service (e.g., greeting customers, taking orders) 
  • Employee skills (e.g., being on time, following a schedule, calling out) 
  • Safety and Sanitation skills (e.g., handling hazardous materials, fire safety, basic first aid, calling 911, germs and bacteria safety) 
  • Transportation use (e.g., taking a bus, Uber, or Ethra) 
  • Interpersonal communication (e.g., conversation skills, respecting people and property, identifying harassment, healthy relationship development) 
  • Functional academics (e.g., following directions, reading, math) 
  • Personal hygiene (e.g., grooming, doing laundry) 
  • Job interview skills (e.g., managing appearance, asking questions, appropriate social skills) 

Riverside Coffee Shop provides cooking classes every day for two hours in which students select recipes, consider the cost, locate the ingredients, follow directions, utilize the necessary appliances, and eat the final product for lunch. Additionally, there is a mandatory 30 minutes of social time where teachers stand by to ensure all students are engaged with the group. Ms. Lee indicated that the students are very supportive of each other; she stated “I am just there for back up!”   

On August 14, 2023, Riverside expanded to include an additional portable classroom adjacent to the coffee shop on the campus of Two Rivers Church. This classroom and office space allows for growth, including potential training in retail sales (e.g., taking inventory, sorting clothes) and office work (e.g., sorting, copying, filing).    

Angela Lee and Faye Presley reported starting up Riverside was like opening two businesses at the same time: vocational training for individuals with special needs and a coffee shop. They are slowly and steadily building the program, addressing educational and business needs as they arise. They are adding more teachers, more subject areas, and more class space as they expand.    

Initially, company leadership expected they would be dealing primarily with social awkwardness and lack of job skills, but the needs were “way deeper than we thought.” Some children with special needs have been highly protected throughout their lives by loving, attentive parents, who likely struggled to know when it was time to hold on and let go. Individuals with special needs can often be underestimated and not taught to manage their own money, do household chores, use public transportation, make their own purchases, order their own food or advocate for themselves.    

Riverside Coffee Shop strives to give every student employee a chance to learn personal, vocational and life skills to help them rise to their fullest potential. Ms. Lee said, with enthusiasm, “This is the best classroom I have ever seen.”     

If you would like to start your day off right, stop by Riverside Coffee Shop for your favorite beverage, a sweet treat, or an exceptional sandwich! They are located at 16239 HWY 70 E  Lenoir City, TN. For more information about their program, hours, services, and menu, check out their website

“Inclusion, acceptance, great coffee.”   

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Tricia Hedinger
Hello! My name is Tricia and I am an associate professor in the Department of Audiology & Speech Pathology at University of Tennessee in Knoxville with specialties in stuttering and early childhood language. I am a mom to 3 girls, including 10 year old twins and a 14 year old, and a stepmom to 2 boys in their twenties. In 2013, my husband, Richard, and I relocated to Knoxville from Delaware. He grew up in NY and I in Pennsylvania. We love the small city feel of Knoxville, the proximity to the mountains and the fantastic community that surrounds us in our Farragut home. We spend our evenings and weekends on the sidelines cheering on our kids in various sporting events. My primary hobby is driving children from one place to another. I have a passion for anti-bullying movements, outdoor education and building support group networks around the world. I host a podcast entitled "Stutter Stories" to help share the voices of people who stutter internationally. I am a huge fan of thinking globally and acting locally. I am glad to be a part of Knoxville Moms and feel inspired when parents connect to take action for the well-being of each other and their children.


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