Ethan and the Bean, a Passaic County coffee shop that hires adults with learning disabilities, is outgrowing its space and is looking to expand.

What started out as a pilot program in a church basement has proven to be so successful that it needs bigger digs. The shop is named for the founder’s son, Ethan Donovan, who has both autism and epilepsy; he had aged out of a system that caters to younger people with disabilities.

Ethan’s mom, Pam Donovan, decided to create a program for Ethan and people like him. With the help of a Montclair roaster, Java Love, she set up shop in November of 2019; for a time she partnered with Caldwell University’s autism program to help find and train prospective employees.

Now, over 50% of Ethan and the Bean’s workers have some sort of intellectual or developmental disability. According to their website, “We want to train and employ a significant number of persons with intellectual or developmental delays, become a treasured asset within the community, and change the way people see those special souls challenged by disabilities.”

Ethan and the Bean (Where Hope is Always Brewing!) is a nonprofit. Donovan told New Jersey Monthly that the shop uses the principles of ABA (applied behavioral analysis), tailored to each trainee’s individual needs and strengths. She said that they aren’t hiring right now, but that the shop is willing to help like-minded people; you can contact them here.

Things have gone so well that Ethan and the Bean need more room and, with the help of the Little Falls Historical Society, it looks like they might be getting it. According to, the Historical Society is renovating a former municipal building and has plans to rent a space to Ethan and the Bean, approximately doubling the size of the café.

They would not only get more space for things like their own coffee roaster, but it would allow them to train and employ more special needs young adults.

Assuming things go on schedule, they hope to have the project completed within two years; they are in the fundraising stage right now.

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