Artists market and coffee shop employs and trains people with autism in downtown Northville

Fresh off the heels of their grand opening celebration, an artists’ market, gift store, and coffee shop is ready to thrive in downtown Northville.

Though it’s been operating under a soft opening since late September 2019, Mod Market has been purposefully building toward the point of its grand opening celebration, which was held on Thursday, March 4.

In fact, Mod Market has been acting purposefully because it’s more than an average business, it's a business with purpose. Mod Market exists to hire and train individuals with autism and other related challenges.

And not only does the market employ those individuals and give them the skills that they can then apply in the workforce, but they also sell the artwork of those very same people. Roughly 50 percent of the art that Mod Market carries is created by people with autism.

"The employees that we have now started at the end of October. They know just about every task by now. The day-to-day operations, they’ve learned just about all of the elements," says Amy Bonser, manager of Mod Market.

"This is not an easy business for anybody. You have to be able to multi-task and there are times that are stressful.

"They manage it and they manage it well."

Mod Market is a program of the Living & Learning Enrichment Center, a non-profit that offers employment and social skills training to individuals with autism. When that organization’s programming got so popular that they had to move to a new location, they opened Mod Market in their former space.

The artists’ market and gift shop opened in September. A full-service coffee bar with food and baked goods opened in January. Most recently, the staff of Mod Market has begun offering coffee delivery services in downtown Northville.

Employees work part-time and learn a variety of job skills, from operating the cash register to making measurements for coffee drinks. Area schools also bring students to learn skills at the shop.

The name Mod Market references their aim to be the Modern Market of the future, reflecting the organization’s desire that one day all businesses are inclusive businesses.

"The goal is not to hire and retain these employees long-term. We want them to learn the skills that can be applied to other businesses so they can be employed elsewhere," Bonser says.

"We would love for employers to consider hiring our employees," she continues. "They have a lot to offer and we would offer the support."

Mod Market is located at 150 Mary Alexander Ct. in downtown Northville.

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.