PEABODY — With the addition of a new, soft-serve ice cream machine, Breaking Grounds Cafe is again breaking ground.
It’s now the first locally owned shop selling ice cream in downtown Peabody.
The cafe, which opened in 2016, is not an ordinary coffee shop. It is run by Northeast Arc, the Danvers-based human service agency, as a way to train people with disabilities to work in the food service industry. At Breaking Grounds, they work alongside people who do not have disabilities, typically for about three months before moving on to other jobs.
So far, Breaking Grounds has trained about 30 people who have gone on to jobs at Dunkin’ Donuts, Panera Bread, Flatbread Pizza and Starbucks. A former Breaking Grounds employee works at the Yard House Restaurant in Lynnfield, another at the Daily Harvest Cafe in Danvers.
Recently, Breaking Grounds added a soft-serve ice cream machine, along with a variety of toppings, becoming one of the few places on Main Street where you can grab an ice cream.
“There is none,” said Councilor-at-large Tom Gould said of the other ice cream options downtown. “Breaking Grounds is what it’s all about. It really is helping the members of the community.”
Gould, who owns Treadwell’s ice cream, about a mile away, helped them find the soft-serve machine. The cafe is serving Treadwell’s ice cream, served in Treadwell’s cups.
Jo Ann Simons, CEO of Northeast Arc, said adding ice cream to the menu means giving their clients new, marketable skills.
“Cleaning a soft-serve machine is a skill that is transferable to other ice cream shops; being able to measure appropriately ice cream sizes, add toppings,” she said. “So our folks are going to be able to get jobs not only in coffee shops, but now in ice cream shops.”
The idea, she said, came from Steve Rosenthal of Marblehead, the founder of a real estate investment firm who donated $1 million to Northeast Arc in 2017.
“I love soft-serve ice cream,” Rosenthal said, “and I thought it was really important there be a way to add to the skills that are being developed here.” Rosenthal paid for the machine.
Brett Gray, 22, who has been working at Breaking Grounds for almost three months, found working with the new ice cream machine “kind of easy.”
“I think it’s awesome that they are adding ice cream to Breaking Grounds,” he said.