By: Kevin Howard
Additional reporting and video by: Ryan Schumacher
BRIDGETON, N.J. – Downtown Bridgeton celebrated the grand opening of a new community cafe today.
On Friday, July 5th, the Riverside Cafe, located at 36 S. Laurel Street, held its grand opening for a crowd hungry for some scoops of ice cream and some famous Century Donuts.
The cafe trains foster youth and young adults to provide employment, stability, and skills.
“Currently, our staff [come from] programs that already exist and we are looking to seek grant money and other avenues so we can specifically target foster [and] disadvantaged youth or youth with parents in prison,” Loretta LaTourette, the director of Bridge the Gap Compassionate Ministries said at the event.
The cafe will have a staff of paid employees supported by volunteers and other program workers to run the establishment.
Bridge the Gap also runs a thrift store and a learning center, and it performs community outreach. The Riverside Cafe is the ministries’ newest endeavor in helping the Bridgeton community.
The idea of the cafe came about after the previous occupant, Bridgetowne Restaurant, closed its doors. After three years of failed talks with interested restaurant entrepreneurs, the ministry decided to open up the Riverside Cafe themselves.
The cafe menu currently offers Richman’s ice cream, along with coffee, tea, water ice, Century Bakery donuts, and specialty treats. They have plans to expand the menu in the future.
The Riverside Cafe utilizes Beyond for their payment processing, so a portion of the fees from every debit and credit card swipe at the cafe will go toward funding scholarships for underserved youth through Give Something Back, a New Jersey nonprofit. Patrons can also link their credit or debit card to the Beyond Chip-In app to select a local nonprofit of their choice to be the beneficiary of a portion of their purchase.
“It’s a good meeting place, it brings the community together and it’s a safe, warm, welcoming place,” said LaTourette.
The Riverside Cafe is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.