“We’re going to be like Starbucks,” says Iva Walsh. She’s talking about the imminent opening of the new Maeve’s Place in Phoenicia, a sister café to the wildly successful Maeve’s Place coffee shop nestled in the Pine Hill Arms Hotel. Walsh launched that endeavor in 2018 to give her 21-year-old daughter Maeve, who has Down’s Syndrome, “an opportunity to become the best version of herself, and to create a safe environment where she could learn.”
The coffee shop has exceeded Walsh’s expectations. “Maeve has really blossomed here,” she says from the counter of the Pine Hill location, the bustle of the hotel bar audible through the swinging kitchen doors. “My daughter loves interacting with customers, and having something to do.” Maeve opens the business, makes coffee, engages with patrons, and sells her own line of skin care products, Maeve’s Pretty Face. Her longtime friend, Christopher, helps out on Sundays. Walsh wants more of this. Employing the developmentally/learning disabled is part of the plan, as is creating a hangout for them. The new branch, in the Phoenicia Plaza at 5581 Route 28 (former home of Bite Me Bakery), offers more space, more traffic, and, to Walsh and Maeve’s delight, a spacious deck where they hope people will bring “dog friends.” Across the two-lane blacktop of Route 28 are silver birches, the old Ulster-Delaware train tracks, the Esopus en route to the Ashokan reservoir, and the Catskills rising over everything.
“I created the first coffee shop for Maeve,” Walsh says. “But I realized there are not many opportunities around here for other people like my daughter. And we’re running out of square footage. So we’re expanding in part to create jobs for the learning/developmentally disabled — though not exclusively. We’ve already started receiving applications.”
When asked about opening a coffee shop amid a pandemic, it’s clear Walsh has faced adversity before. She shrugs, laughs, and says, “I know. But I’m in it already.”
Walsh sees an opportunity for a coffee shop in the tourist-frequented Phoenicia area, especially on the Scenic Byway section of Route 28. “We’ve already got a great diner [the Phoenicia Diner], so we’ll specialize mostly in coffee beverages, like espresso, cappuccino, lattes, brewed coffee, nitro brew. And teas. And we’ll expand our baked goods, and do lunch and breakfast, café style.” They’ll also offer specialty food items like charcuterie boards and cheeses, European open-faced sandwiches, and French pastries, all to eat in or take out. Their immediate neighbors in Phoenicia Plaza will include Woodstock Brewery, Windy Ridge Preschool, and Resort Ridge Pizza.
Walsh was born in Prague and moved to Long Island in 1989, then the Hudson Valley in 2003. She can’t say enough good things about where she and her 4 kids ended up. (Maeve is number 3. Her older brother, Daniel, is the Pine Hill Arms chef, a sister, Jessica, tends the bar, another sister is a senior at Margaretville High School.)
“I love it here,” Walsh says. “I love everything about it.” In Long Island, she managed a catering hall/beer garden. After her workday, she said, she found it hard to recharge her batteries. Now, to her amazement, in addition to managing the expanding Maeve’s Place brand, she not only tends a garden, but also raises chickens. “If I could, I would have a farm,” she says.
Maeve attended school in nearby Margaretville from kindergarten through senior year. Her education there changed the school system. “When we moved here in 2003,” Walsh says, “I called the school and asked, ‘What kind of program do you have for a Down’s Syndrome child?’ They said, ‘We don’t. We’ll send her to Walton.’ I said, ‘No, you won’t. Get ready. She’ll be there the first day of school.’ And they did a fabulous job.”
The new Maeve’s Place will maintain the policy of offering items produced by those with learning disabilities: Cookies With Heart from Reason to Bake, a mother-daughter artisan small-batch bakery in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina that specializes in gluten-free, all-natural cookies, and Buddy Walk Coffee, roasted in Westminster, Maryland by a father-son team who donate $2.50 per pound to the National Down’s Syndrome Society, which Maeve’s Place matches.
Maeve and Walsh will also remain eco-conscious in the Phoenicia location. “For our one year anniversary, we went green,” Walsh says. She’s proud to show the hay straws, biodegradable cutlery, and “the Mug Club,” which encourages customers to buy a Maeve’s Place mug, with which they receive coffee discounts while helping cut down on waste.
Maeve is particularly excited about the superhero aprons everyone will wear. Maeve’s will be a Wonder Woman apron. When asked if she’ll have a cape, she holds up her forearm and says, “No, I’ll have my shield!” She adds that she’ll also have her golden wristbands and a golden lasso, like Wonder Woman.
“What superhero should I be?” Walsh asks.
Maeve hugs her mom and says, “Supergirl.”
The newest Maeve’s Place, opening April 2020, is in Phoenicia Plaza at 5581 Route 28, Phoenicia, Phone: (845) 750-7444 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org