The only thing better than starting the day with a barista-made latte and a fresh-baked scone is being part of a mother’s mission to change the world one cup of coffee at a time.
The reason for opening Maeve’s Place—a sunny, colorful Phoenicia coffee shop named for founder Iva Walsh’s daughter Maeve—was simple, says Walsh. “Maeve was born with Down syndrome,” she says. “As she grew, I wondered what would be next for her when the school bus stopped coming and she didn’t have that anchor in her life.” This is a common concern among parents of disabled children, she adds. So, she decided to help Maeve learn to create something useful that she could sell.
Looking initially to build on Maeve’s longtime interest in beauty products, Walsh worked with her on developing Maeve’s Pretty Face, a skin care line. “She’s very good at following a sequence of steps if you give it to her,” says Walsh. But the experience wasn’t quite what Walsh had in mind. “I wanted a place where Maeve could learn skills but also interact with others, she’s naturally friendly and lights up when she feels like she’s a part of things.”
The Prague, Czech Republic, native—who moved to Long Island in 1989 and then the Hudson Valley in 2003—had a deep background in the hospitality industry, managing a catering hall. Soon, she had the idea to open a coffee shop. “Even though I was starting from scratch, it didn’t seem scary to me because of my experience,” says Walsh. She envisioned a bright, cheerful space for eat-in or takeout breakfast and lunch, where Maeve could blossom, and also for the benefit of others in the area like her daughter, who faced the same dearth of meaningful growth opportunities once they aged out of the school system. The staff—which varies according to busier and slower times of year—intentionally includes a mix of neurotypical and learning and developmentally disabled people. “Not everyone can be a barista, but there are all sorts of jobs in a café,” says Walsh. “We all learn from one another.”
I wanted a place where Maeve could learn skills but also interact with others.
Maeve has pitched in all throughout the process of establishing Maeve’s Place, from helping to paint the walls before the café opened in 2020 to stocking the retail area, which contains a mix of teas, jellies, picnic ware, and hostess-gift type treats. Her latest assignment is making smoothies, which are a popular menu item. The chef devised a system that generates an easy-to-follow list of ingredients, in the order they need to be added to the blender, so Maeve knows exactly what to do. “We call her our ‘Smoothie Princess’ now,” says Walsh. Perfect timing for summer, the café’s busiest season. Maeve’s Place is open Thursday–Monday, 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. For more info go to maevesplace.com.
The café is open for breakfast and lunch.
- Bagel with lox
- Breakfast burrito
- Egg sandwich on a croissant or bagel
- Traditional eggs benedict
- Pearl sugar waffles served with Nutella and fruit
- Crispy chicken sandwich
- Impossible burger
- Cauliflower bánh mì
- Classic Reuben
Maeve’s Place offers a wide selection of coffees and teas. The specialty (not to mention irresistible!) hot and cold latte options include mocha, turmeric, matcha, sticky bun, chai and dirty chai.