There are cafés and then there are cafés with a cause. The new Riverside Café, courtesy of Bridge the Gap, located at 36 S. Laurel Street in downtown Bridgeton is a café with a cause—namely a focus on great ice cream and employing and training foster youth and young adults according to Loretta LaTourette, the café’s director.
“Riverside Café is a ministry of Bridge the Gap Compassionate Ministries. Our goal is to impact our community by offering a warm and welcoming place to gather with a particular focus on hiring and training our local foster youth and young adults by providing employment, stability and skills,” Said LaTourette.
Conceived in the wake of the Bridgetowne Restaurant closing its doors for the final time three years earlier and after discussions with interested restaurant entrepreneurs went nowhere, both the work to renovate the former restaurant space and the planning for a “café with a cause” began in earnest in mid-2018.
LaTourette, along with the Bridge Compassionate Ministry Board and numerous supporters and friends, began to consider everything from seating and café logistics, to staffing, hours of operation and menu offerings which will include Richman’s ice cream, coffee, tea, water ice, Century Bakery doughnuts, and specialty treats. The opening menu is a starting place with additions coming in the months ahead.
In terms of logistics, LaTourette says the café will be open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. While there is no regularly scheduled weekend entertainment for the café at this time, LaTourette is open to the idea and is looking forward to participating in “First Fridays” in downtown providing special offers to the community.
There will be a minimum of four employees and depending on how busy things get and how the menu expands, as many as eight. Staff at the café will include a combination of paid employees and, consistent with their social impact mission, a contingent of volunteers and program workers to round out operations at the new café.
As part of the holiday weekend, the Riverside Café invites the public to the Grand Opening at 12 noon on Friday, July 5, when Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly will join the café team to cut the ribbon.