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Charlie Foster’s serves up diversity & inclusion along with tasty coffee drinks.

Charlie Foster’s serves up diversity & inclusion along with tasty coffee drinks.

  • Huntsville coffee shop located at Stovehouse
  • Open Monday-Friday from 7am-7pm; Saturday-Sunday 8:30-7pm
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Charlie Foster’s is immediately unique. From the moment you walk through the red-stained glass doors into a somehow retro-modern oasis, you sense you’re not just getting ready to have coffee—you’re about to have an experience. Proof of that isn’t only in the delicious items they serve, but also in the inclusion and diversity of their staff.

As someone who isn’t quite a coffee-lover, I was looking for something fun and tasty. I ordered the Dirty Coke! I’m a Georgia girl; I never imagined Coca Cola could be improved but the cold brew ice cubes in Mexican Coke made my taste buds dance! My husband, the actual coffee aficionado, exclaimed, “This is incredible!”, after taking the first sip of his unsweetened Cold Brew Latte.

What’s more incredible is the vision behind Charlie Foster’s, which I discovered in my interview with the friendly, pink-haired manager, Billy, the son of Korean and Ecuadorian immigrants.

Billy’s passion for the Charlie Foster’s mission is genuine.

RCM: How did you get involved with Charlie Foster’s? 

Billy: I was born in Huntsville but moved around a lot because my dad was in the military. We moved back in 2003 and have been here ever since. Austin [teammate and owner of Charlie Foster’s] and I are good friends. He came at me with this crazy idea. He said, “I want to open a coffee shop and I need help. Do you want to help me?” My initial reaction was no; I’d worked in a coffee shop before. But after he explained to me his vision, he sold me on it 100%.

RCM: What is the mission of Charlie Foster’s?

Billy: To raise awareness around hiring people with special needs. We have a person with special needs on staff every hour. And while we would love to give everyone a shot, we’re a standalone coffee shop and can’t afford to hire them all. By raising awareness and getting other business owners in here to see how they do in a work environment, we can encourage others to employ a person with special needs. The experience of working with these women and men has been incredible. It was a little nerve-wracking [for me] at first. I’ve never worked with someone with special needs before. But it has a weird effect on you. You’re just like…a better person around them. To see them grow and develop and learn these things, to be able to provide for themselves and earn their own money, just speaks for itself.

RCM: Who was Charlie Foster?

Billy: Charlie Foster was a real person. As a young boy, he worked at the Merrimack cotton mill. The mill employed a lot of underaged kids, and an investigative journalist came to Huntsville because he’d heard about it and wanted to raise awareness. The bosses of the mill told all the kids, “Do not look at the photographer. Do not get your picture taken.” Charlie, being the mischievous little boy that he was, went out, found the journalist and smiled brightly at the camera. That photo became iconic. It was even used in Congress to enact child labor laws. Charlie lived to be an old man and worked at Merrimack Mill until he retired years later. Merrimack Mill shut down, and in 2007, Merrimack Hall was founded. It’s a performing arts studio that teaches people with special needs. Arts and crafts, dance lessons, yoga, all kinds of neat things!

The OG Charlie Foster in 1913 Huntsville.

RCM: How did the common mission between Charlie Foster’s and Merrimack Hall happen?

Billy: Austin’s parents, Debra and Alan Jenkins, are the founders of Merrimack Hall. That’s how Austin and I were exposed it. A lot of our hires come from Merrimack Hall but not exclusively.

RCM: What makes Charlie Foster different than other local coffee shops?

Billy: We’re a third wave coffee shop, meaning we care about the quality of our coffee. I get here extra early in the morning and instead of just throwing some coffee in my batch brew machine or espresso and calling it good, I taste it for about 30 minutes. I taste each coffee to make sure the extraction levels are correct, to make sure it tastes good enough for me to serve to our customers. We try to set ourselves apart [from other coffee shops] because coffee by itself tastes wonderful.

While the Mocha is the most popular drink item, there are a plethora of options to choose from. Their teas were created by Piper & Leaf and there are even a few non-caffeinated drinks available for those who prefer it. They also have breakfast food items available like avocado toast, bagels, and pastries.

You can even order online for curbside pickup!

More Charlie Foster’s Details

View Menu | Instagram | Facebook
Address: At Stovehouse – 3414 Governors Drive, Huntsville AL (map)
Hours: Monday-Friday 7am-7pm; Saturday-Sunday 8:30-7pm

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