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Businesswoman opens coffeehouse to help DHS kids

For Rachel Goble, it’s a dream come true. The Red Bird Coffee House, 812 W. Main St., is open for business. And after a soft opening that’s lasted a couple weeks, business is booming.
“It’s incredibly encouraging and exciting, and overwhelming in the sense that I’m having to learn quickly, and I’m trying to do my best to put our best foot forward,” Goble said. “Pretty quickly, we were full speed ahead, and I was not predicting that.”

Holly Johnson, left, and Sierra Steele make coffee for customers of the Red Bird Coffeehouse. The shop, located on Main Street, is in the former home of Mabel C. Fry, a former librarian and school teacher.

Red Bird is more than just a local business, though.
Goble wants its mission to be twofold: to be a place for the community to come together, and for it to be a place that teens who are aging out of DHS care can gain valuable work experience.
In the past, Goble accomplished the latter with a food truck, and a physical location was the next logical step.
“My personal passion, and my goal, is for this to be a place of employment and a launching pad for youth coming out of DHS custody,” Goble said.
Before Red Bird, Goble was employed by the Department of Human Service and she saw the struggles teens faced when it came to leaving state custody and entering adulthood.
“I worked with a lot of teens – that was the area that I enjoyed the most,” Goble said. “They are challenging, and they’ve experienced a lot in life. I continued to see that there aren’t a lot of options for them after turning 18, or as they’re approaching turning 18.”
Many teens approaching adulthood are hesitant to utilize the state agencies that exist to help them gain employment experience, Goble said.
“What I saw was an overall mindset of youth who didn’t want anything to do with ‘the system,’” she said. “I saw a large gap in service for them, ultimately. When you don’t have any previous work experience, and when your examples haven’t been positive ones, you haven’t been taught those things (related to employment).”
And that’s where Red Bird comes in.

Greg Banaken, the shop’s assistant manager, prepares drinks. Photo / Larissa Copeland

“My desire is that we can do something,” she said. “We can provide the tools, we can provide the employment, and we can hopefully change that cycle and launch them into a successful path for being an adult.”
Thanks to Goble’s contacts in DHS and other agencies, she’s put in touch with teens who fit the criteria for working at Red Bird – teens who live nearby, who are at least 16 and who meets the requirements to work.
Goble walks the teens through an interview process before they’re brought onboard.
As for the building itself, it’s a piece of local history.
Goble said she always envisioned Red Bird finding a home along Main Street, but she initially didn’t realize just how deeply her location’s roots run.
“The desire was always to be on Main Street,” she said. “From the very beginning. I loved the character it has, and I knew I wanted to be in a space with a lot of history and character.”
That history includes being the former home of one of Yukon’s most prominent residents: Mabel C. Fry.
“It was an interesting piece of history that we learned in the process,” Goble said. “Her parents built it, and she lived out her days here.”
As tribute to Fry, Red Bird includes a small shelf of children’s books.
Kids who read one of the books are awarded with a free sugar cookie – made using Fry’s own recipe.
“Mabel was a teacher before being a librarian, and children’s literacy was very important to her,” Goble said. “We wanted to put a focus on that. The cookies might look different, but they’re her ingredients, and her method. We wanted to tie a little bit of her history in.”
In the future, Goble hopes to include Fry’s story, along with Red Bird’s, on the walls of the shop.
While the shop hasn’t yet held an official grand opening, Goble said she’s seen an outpouring of support from the community.
“Having people who aren’t family or friends come in and ask if we’re open, it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “We already have a good amount of regulars – we’ve been open for two weeks and we’ve already seen them five or six times.”
With its bright, airy and welcoming atmosphere, Goble hopes Red Bird earns a reputation as a space for the community.
“My goal was that this would be a space for people to come and know one another and care for one another, and to see it unfold on a small scale in the last two weeks is encouraging,” she said. “My prayer is that it will continue.”
Red Bird is open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Goble asks that customers utilize parking in front of her building as well as additional parking in the back.

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