Be(Cause) Lifestyle Boutique, owned by Stacey Wohl, may be a new addition to Wading River Square, but is also a part of Wohl’s continuing mission to employ people with autism.
The store floor is divided into two sections: the boho-chic clothes boutique with racks of clothes, baby clothes and candles, and the coffee bar and lounge. The lounge consists of a large wooden table and chairs, a pink couch and two high-back chairs. The smell of freshly ground coffee is in the air.
While the coffee bar is a new addition to the boutique, this isn’t the first time Wohl has sold coffee. In 2012 she started a wholesale coffee bean business, which she ran out of her house. In 2015, Wohl opened the storefront Cause Cafe in Northport. Her motivation for opening the store was to give her children, Brittney and Logan, who are both on the autism spectrum, an opportunity to maintain jobs and interact with the community.
The cafe made the news several times because of its advocacy for people with autism. Cause Cafe was featured on TV programs s such as the Today Show and Rachel Ray.
Ray invited Wohl, her daughter and Wohl’s parents to Autism on the Seas cruise. Two days into the cruise, Wohl’s father suffered a massive heart attack and died in the arms of his wife of 55 years. Four months after the fateful cruise, Wohl’s mother died as well.
“She couldn’t be without my father,” said Wohl.
Managing the business, the affairs of her late mother and her children’s daily needs became too much for Wohl and she decided to close her business in 2017.
Wohl said she got through that difficult time by continuing forward and reaching out to others.
“You have to reach out to people more,” said Wohl. “They might not know how to reach out to you, because they might feel awkward or they might not know what to say. You have to leave your ego at the door.”
After handling her mother’s affairs, Wohl and her children moved to Shoreham. They were immediately welcomed by the community.
“I had an issue with my son when he was home. He locked himself in the bathroom,” said Wohl. “I texted the neighbors, and three neighbors were over in five minutes.”
Wohl’s daughter went to a local day habilitation program, but was not getting the stimulation she needed. Combining Wohl’s previous work in fashion and her daughter’s love of makeup and clothes lead to the Be(Cause) Lifestyle Boutique , which she opened in 2018.
“Since I opened this store there has been an overwhelming support from the community, from the community page,” said Wohl. “After people came in, they have messaged me and they have been very warm and nice.”
Wohl’s products consist of jewelry on consignment or clothes from shops that are woman-owned or from businesses that give proceeds to charity.
Wohl wants to reach out and work with a local bakery to make cookies she can again offer at her coffee bar. She sold individually wrapped cookies and gift baskets of baked goods at Cause Cafe and at local markets.
“Brittney, I, and Logan would sit outside the IGA,” said Wohl. “We were in community farm stands. They see the kids working and that’s my goal. To get more kids back here.”
Wohl believes by adding the coffee bar, she can hire more people with autism to work behind the counter.
“They’re much smarter than people think,” said Wohl. “Kids with autism get upset, hurt or offended just like we do, but they just can’t express it the right way.”
As a small business owner, Wohl encourages other owners to employ people with autism.
“Somebody like Brittany who is non-verbal, to see her use the iPad and use the register and interact with the customers, is a beautiful thing,” said Wohl. “It’s why I tried to do this again. I could’ve just gotten a job part-time, but then my daughter wouldn’t have a job. The template of what I started wouldn’t be doing anything.”
Wohl’s ultimate goal is to continue her mother’s dream of opening a bed and breakfast that combines the coffee bar and boutique, but her short-term goal is to get a better online presence for the store.
She wants people to have the convenience of going online to see what is new in the store, but invites people to come in and enjoy coffee and company.
“What’s important when people come in here is that people come in and tell me their story,” said Wohl. “I’m sharing my story too. People come in, sit on the couch and tell me about their day or their struggles with their own personal lives. I want people to reach out to others.”
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