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The Independence Café Sells Items Handcrafted by Individuals with Disabilities & Veterans

The Independence Café Sells Items Handcrafted by Individuals with Disabilities & Veterans

Operated by Bridges, this boutique aims to help individuals with disabilities achieve independence by selling their handcrafted items.

One new store at the Palisades Center in West Nyack, the Independence Café – A Unique Boutique, held its grand opening Thursday, July 1. This store, located on the second floor, is unique in that the products sold are crafted by individuals with disabilities and chronic medical conditions, as well as veterans. More than half of the staff is also from this community, according to Carlos Martinez, CEO and executive director of Bridges, the nonprofit is dedicated to advocacy and leadership on behalf of people with disabilities in Rockland County that operates the storefront.

The café sells a host of handcrafted items available. “We have jewelry, candles, soaps, pretzel items, chocolate, popcorn, bags, sweatshirts, and ball caps,” Martinez says, adding that they even have artwork that was designed by a veteran who took apart his own uniform and made pieces of this into “combat paper.” On each of the sheets of this paper is a flower, design, or painting. “We’re lucky to have that in the store as well,” Martinez says.

The store also features a welcome center, manned by Bridges staff to tell customers about the unique items available. Currently, some young summer workers are helping with the launch. But ultimately the idea is to have individuals with disabilities and veterans who are looking for jobs operate the store, as well as sell some coffee and pastries here.

RELATED: New Website Rates Accessibility of Rockland County Public Spaces

The Independence Café – A Unique Boutique originated from a grab-and-go eatery, which was staffed by individuals with disabilities. It started at the County Courthouse in 2015, but is currently dormant due to COVID, Martinez explains. The idea was to bring the café to the mall, however, plans for this were sidelined when they realized that new competition was coming here as well and would likely hamper its success.


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However, with the storefront already underway, Bridges began to think about other possibilities for the store area. Then, a friend asked Martinez if he would be willing to sell some clothing from someone they knew with a disability. “It literally lit up the lightbulb in my head,” Martinez says. While he knew that doing this for just one person would not be viable, it occurred to him that if he could get products created or designed by various artisans with disabilities, it would be a different story.

RELATED: Find Resources for Your Child with Special Needs

Bridges works on a consignment model with the store only taking a small percentage of each sale. “So, we’re really hoping that they can earn something out of this,” Martinez says. Like the name Bridges itself, he hopes the store can serve as a bridge to help individuals with disabilities to achieve independence. The idea is to give these artisans a chance that they otherwise would not have to promote their products. “We know this is not going to make them rich,” he says. The thinking is that this will get them noticed and at the same time will allow Bridges, known legally as the Rockland Independent Living Center, to attract new funding for other programs like this to support this community.

The Independence Café – A Unique Boutique is located within Bridges, on the second floor of the Palisades Center at 1000 Palisades Center Drive, West Nyack. For more information visit bridgesrc.org, call 845-624-1366, or follow Bridges on Facebook or Instagram.

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Maxine Lipner

Author: Maxine Lipner is the content manager for RocklandParent.com. She has written about parenting, health, business, and more for more than 30 years. Her bylines have appeared in well-known publications and on popular sites, such as Today.com, Next Avenue, New York Magazine, Forbes, MarketWatch, Women’s Sports and Fitness, VeryWell Health, MSN.com, 7News, Nation’s Business, America West Airlines Magazine, and many others. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Communication Arts from Cornell University. Maxine and her daughter live in Nyack in Rockland County. There, she can often be found observing at the local ice rink or enjoying coffee and occasionally pastries in town. See More

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