By K.D. Michaels, Branson Globe Staff Writer
The sign on the face of the older building on Branson’s Animal Safari Road reads Cedar Creek Coffee, but beyond the doors you’ll find so much more. While Cedar Creek Coffee, does roast delicious blends of many specialty coffees, the building is also home to New Hope Development, an employment service geared towards some of our area’s most special citizens.
What began as two group homes and eight clients with learning disabilities and other special needs has become one of Branson’s most unique services -- and the fulfillment of a dream for Director Raeanne Zurn, who has been with Cedar Creek Coffee for 14 years.
“Our owner is just the kind of employer that wants to help you reach your personal goals,” explained Zurn. “One of my dreams was to have an employment program. so, we bought a building. It was our owner’s idea to do the coffee, and at the time, I didn’t know anything about coffee, so we did a lot of learning.”
Zurn and her employer attended trade shows, workshops and classes, and watched a lot of YouTube videos, then bought a roaster and in 2012, they began roasting their own coffee, which they packaged and sold on their website. The dream and vision also included having their own coffee shop, but with only eight clients, they knew that dream would have to wait. Zurn and her crew spent their time perfecting their coffee.
“We have a wonderful blend of coffee we use as a house coffee,” Zurn said. “It is a mixture of Colombian, Brazilian and Ethiopian coffee, so it is a delicious blend of coffee that we have been able to create.”
The time was also spent finding new clients, and honing their skills. New Hope Development now provides service to 25 individuals. Clients are referred to them through Linkability, who provides Case Management services to those with special needs in Taney and Stone Counties. When an individual is seeking employment or job training, they are referred to Zurn and New Hope Development.
The staff of New Hope Development helps the clients gain independence, integrates them into the community and works with clients on career planning and pre-vocational skills.
Zurn explained, “We talk to them about what their goals are, and what kind of job they want. With the tourist industry here, we try to fill some of those housekeeping jobs and other jobs that are hard to fill in our community.”
The staff of New Hope Development readies their clients for the work force by helping them prepare resumes, preparing them for interviews, and teaching basic skills needed in the service industry. One room in the center is devoted to hands-on training in skills such as folding laundry and making beds for jobs in the lodging field. Another area teaches skills needed in food service, while a third simulates stocking shelves in a store.
Clients also get excellent on-the-job training working in the Cedar Creek kitchen, roasting coffee, and baking Kolaches, -- delicious Czechoslovakian pastries with an assortment of fillings and topped with a delectable dough that nearly melts in your mouth!
“We help them find a job, and our job coaches will go with them. We’ll provide whatever support they need,” noted Zurn. “We will help with the training, get them comfortable, and then our goal is to fade our support and at the same time help them to develop a natural support in the work place. Area businesses have been so great about helping our individuals and working with them.”
Zurn commented that many of their 25 clients have found jobs in the community. Then, Covid-19 hit, and brought with it some challenges. Many of the clients were laid off, or faced reduced hours, and it seemed that Zurn and New Hope were facing an uphill battle. However, it was in the midst of the pandemic that another of Zurn’s dreams became a reality -- the opening of their new coffee shop and cafe on the beautiful campus of Elevate Branson (formerly Jesus was Homeless).
“We were at Pizza Ranch one day, doing a taste testing with our new blend of coffee,” remembered Zurn. “That’s when I was approached by Bryan Stallings from Elevate Branson. He said ‘I have this beautiful cafe space, it’s already inspected and ready to go. Why don’t you open your coffee shop there? We would love to have you.’ So, that’s how we started the partnership with Elevate Branson. It just all fell into place. They were right in the middle of their name change, and adding some wonderful things to their program that really just lined up wit hall the things that we do here.”
The newly-opened Cedar Creek Coffee and Creations serves a variety of specialty coffees, smoothies, frappes, and the delectable Kolaches. Customers can also enjoy free wi-fi, the use of guest computers, or the selection of board games and card games that are available. The cafe is staffed by clients of New Hope Development, who work as cashiers, baristas, and serve the Kolaches. The clients also enjoy spending time with the customers.
Zurn explained, “The guys love to socialize. So, if you want to play cards, or a board game, they’ll do it. They’ll sit down and play or just hang out. They just love talking to the customers, and getting to know people in the community. And that is one of our main purposes, to integrate them with the community and to let people get to know them. They really are amazing!”
Zurn’’s clients feel that New Hope Development is amazing, as well, and are quick to share what the program has done for them.
One client, Brian, was 18 when he began living in one of the original group homes, and began working for Cedar Creek in 2012. Brian is proud that the New Hope program has taught him responsibility and independence. He stated that he enjoyed baking Kolaches, and loves to teach. In fact, he teaches many classes to his fellow clients, including Life Skills, Independence, Food Safety, and most recently math to help them in running the cash register at the new coffee shop.
Another client, Dylan, is a talented entertainer, who enjoys acting, and participates in the Branson Regional Arts Council’s many productions. Dylan is also working on his own variety show, to open soon in Branson. He credits New Hope Development with helping him learn proper behavior. Dylan also works at the new Cedar Creek Coffee and Creations.
“I work at the Kolache station sometimes. I work serving drinks, and sometimes I work as a cashier,” Dylan explained. “The cashier is my favorite position, because i’m very good at counting back change.”
The opening of Cedar Creek Coffee and Creations is truly a dream come true for Raeanne Zurn, her staff, and her clients. But, like with most businesses in our area, Covid-19 has presented some problems.
The business did a soft opening on June 25, and is currently open three days a week, Thursday and Fridays from 8:00 am until 1:30 pm, and Saturday from 9:00 to 1:00. They are located at 310 Gretna Road, on the campus of Elevate Branson.
“Our goal is to be open Monday through Saturday, but we really need the community to come in, to step up and give us their business, so we can stay open” urged Zurn. “The Kolaches are amazing, we can sell them individually, by the dozen, or in party trays, and we’re working on trying to get some curbside service going if you’re not comfortable going inside. It really is a great, quiet spot for a coffee date, or a little Bible study, or just to hang out and visit. We really encourage everyone to come by and see us!”