WEST NORRITON — Flipping through the record bins can certainly build up an appetite.
Fortunately, it’s no longer 1976, and if you happen to be munching on a hot dog with mustard while at the record store, the clerk won’t be asking you to kindly leave the premises with your snack.
Eating while browsing is not frowned upon at Vinyl Closet Records. In fact, owners Jason and Angela Bucci McFarland encourage customers to patronize the shop’s new café, Coffee Closet with Barista Jake, which is run by the couple’s son Jake.
There’s a mission behind the espressos, medium roast and dark roast coffees, which started from humble beginnings as a coffee cart back in May of 2020.
The supplemental business was created to give Jake something to do during the quarantine, Angela McFarland said.
“Jake had graduated from Norristown High School in 2019 but he had been going back for social skills and vocational training, but because of COVID he couldn’t go to work anymore and everything was online. We were concerned about him regressing. As an adult autistic it’s important to keep all the skills fresh. I wanted him to be active and working, so we had the idea of a curbside coffee cart," she recalled. "We just picked random Saturdays and the community rallied around him as he got all of these donations. The first time we did it we donated the money to the Best Buddies organization and the second time was to the Jake Moletzsky Scholarship Fund.”
The couple had a cart built, which the store quickly outgrew in its former space at the Jefferson Plaza center.
Last fall Vinyl Closet moved to a larger space in the center formerly occupied by a mattress store.
“I said we’re going to do this right. The idea was to move in here and we created our nonprofit on the back end of the Coffee Closet. So we have three businesses operating under this roof – Vinyl Closet Records, Coffee Closet with Jake and Jake’s Baristas nonprofit.”
The coffee cart still operates on a donation basis for coffee and tea but tasty menu items like a BLT on Kaiser roll, hot dog and grilled cheese are available for a low price.
Coffee Closet with Barista Jake is open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“The nonprofit hires special needs adults to work here in the store and at the cart to give them vocational skills,” Angela McFarland said. “We do mock interviews and do interview training. We have a scholarship for inclusion that we just gave at Norristown High School for the first time. The reason we decided to have food was to give more options to our customers and also to have more experiences for the special needs kids to do. We built the commercial kitchen and Jake and I made up the menu together.”
Jake proudly added, “I take the orders and make the coffee. I’m a star, and so is my dad. We work together.”
Vinyl Closet will also be hosting monthly events with live music at “The Closet after Dark,” with $10 admission.
“A portion of the ticket price will be going to the charity supported by Coffee Closet that month” Angela McFarland said. “We came up with a simple menu … things that are easy to eat while you’re looking at records. We’re not trying to be a restaurant; we don’t have time to be a restaurant. We had customers coming in, saying, ‘Oh, you have coffee. Do you have any sweets?’ Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. But now it’s quick bites. You can get a breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee while you’re looking at records. And it’s stuff that’s easy for our special needs staff to recreate. You can support a small business, help a charity and help some special needs kids — all with one purchase.”
Vinyl Closet Records and Coffee Closet with Barista Jake are located at 2117 W. Main St., Jeffersonville.