HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — There are a lot of people working as baristas who have a dream of being a corporate executive. Tiffany McDowell turned that idea on its head.
She turned 40 earlier this year and had climbed her way to a lucrative sales executive job with nearly a dozen people on her sales team. That’s when she left the corporate world behind and bought a coffee shop in High Point.
“I have dreamed this for so long. I can’t remember when it started,” Tiffany said. “I always dreamed of having a business with my sister, but I don’t think I really fleshed it out until probably in college.”
Tiffany’s sister Mallory Paige has Down syndrome. Tiffany became her caretaker almost 15 years ago when their mother died of breast cancer. Mallory was 20 at the time.
She smiles when she’s asked about where this idea to buy a place like 83 Custom Coffee began.
“I think the vision of starting the coffee shop came from experiencing just the joy you have walking into a really good coffee shop, and you have a really good cup of coffee, and you see so much of community in one spot,” she said.
83 Custom Coffee is a single shop on North Main Street nestled between popular places like Brown Truck Brewery and the JH Adams Inn. For several years, she and Mallory have run a jewelry business. For Tiffany, it was something of a second gig to her corporate job.
That idea was driven by her desire to have meaningful work for her sister because her experience is that so many people don’t know how to deal with folks with challenges like Down syndrome.
“You’re in very controlled spaces. You’re at work. You’re at home. You don’t really see them … and I think society forgets about them … Being a sibling caregiver, I can’t forget about them,” she said. “I’m constantly seeing places where I don’t see people like my sister. And if I do see them, I don’t see them often or I see them in ways that I don’t agree with how they’re treated.”
Tiffany hopes to rebrand the shop and then expand it to as many as six locations across the Triad to employ more of what she estimates as about 20,000 people with special needs in the area.
“People like my sister deserve the opportunity that we’ve been given, and more people should step up to the plate to make sure they have those opportunities,” she said.
For Tiffany, this is more than business. This is a mission.
“If this doesn’t work, that means in my heart I feel like I haven’t done the thing that I was put on earth to do,” she said.
See the coffee shop in action in this edition of The Buckley Report.