Office Doors: A Day with Juli and Gregory Bryan

Posted By on January 2, 2020
Gregory & Juli Bryan

Owners and managing partners of Café Cultivate


Juli: Our son, Oliver, sustained a severe traumatic brain injury in 2012 from a motorcycle accident. He had opened a coffee shop with a man who was in rehab with him and we helped them in this endeavor. It ended up disbanding and, in the interim, I was teaching nutrition classes at Ability360 through the Brain Injury Alliance. A gentleman who is a stroke survivor and in the class was trying to convert an existing large room into a coffee shop and asked if we would help. Because it was hard on him and stressful, he asked us to take over. So that’s what we did with the intent to hire people with disabilities. Six of our seven employees have a disability, ranging from autism and brain injury to deafness. It’s tough for people with disabilities to find a job because people don’t understand brain injury, whereas we do. People with disabilities appreciate the job, are always here, always early, and willing to stay late. We have amazing employees who are grateful, work their hearts out and then go home exhausted.

5:30 a.m. >> TWO EARLY BIRDS

Gregory: Juli wakes up at 3:40 a.m. every day, and my alarm goes off at 4:05 a.m. and again at 4:20 a.m. I am one of those double-alarm guys! When we arrive at the café, we sit in our car and say our prayers. We pray over the café, our four sons, their wives and our grandson. I drop off stuff we have in the car, like produce, and start sorting the coffees and Juli starts prepping for the day.


Juli: I make a list on the whiteboard of what everybody will do when they arrive. Because our café opens at 8 a.m., we have to be ready for the first order to hit. This includes cutting all the fruit, baking the croissants, and putting the homemade refried beans on.


Juli: The two of us do a shot of espresso and toast for the day. We ask what we want out of today, we wish that things go smoothly for people with different disabilities, and we hope that my food is enjoyable for everyone. Our mission statement is what we live and toast to every day. Once the staff starts to arrive, I won’t see Gregory again until I come out of the kitchen.


Juli: When our first employee arrives, he comes in and starts prepping eggs. He beats all the eggs and gets them prepped in portions so that when we get orders, everything’s already portioned out. Because our employees have so many disabilities, everything is portioned and easy to grab, which helps everybody.

11 a.m. >> ALL IN THE FAMILY

Juli: Our next employee, who is deaf, arrives. I learned sign language years ago because my career was going to be in elementary education for the hearing impaired. And then I stopped and had a family. We signed with our boys growing up, and now I have an employee who I can communicate with, which is very convenient.

Gregory: It is consistently busy during this time. Right now, I run the front of the house, interfacing with customers placing their orders of coffee and food. Oliver is in grad school now and is there studying a lot so if it gets too crazy, I’ll ask him to help.


Gregory: Juli is very passionate about food, so everything is made fresh every single day. Presentation and freshness are a huge deal as we’re not just throwing food on a plate. Because we make everything as it’s ordered, it takes longer than what people are used to at a typical place. But as people have learned this, they become patient. My nickname is Duck because I don’t get stressed over things and don’t get uptight. When people come in, I try to be calm and upbeat. When I have a long line, I just chat with people as I’m making coffees and try to keep them from worrying about rushing back to the desk.

2 p.m. >> A BRIEF EXHALE

Juli: The kitchen closes and then the café closes at 4 p.m. I’ll usually bring food over and sit down as this is the first and only time we eat all day. By 2 p.m., we take a deep breath since we’ve been going a thousand miles an hour. Once a week, I drive to Mesa to go to the market and get all the produce.


Juli: When we go home, we feed and play with our kitties. We fall into bed and I set my alarm for every hour and a half so I can wake up to do a load of laundry, including aprons, towels and rags so that I can bring it back in the morning. We had no idea the community that would form around the café. It has become the focal point and a hub of positive energy that brings people together.

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Julie Coleman

About Julie Coleman

Julie Coleman is a contributing writer for Frontdoors Media.