CUP Coffee South Tampa interior photo by Maggie Rodriguez

Fill Your CUP: The mission behind Tampa’s inclusive coffee shop

The barista at CUP on S. Dale Mabry Highway in South Tampa hands me my drink and strikes up a conversation. Chatting with Stephen, I quickly realized what makes him and this coffee shop so special. “Would you mind telling me the month, day, and year you were born?” he asks politely.

He thinks about my answer for a few seconds, then says, “You’re a Sagittarius, born on a Friday.”

“Yes! Amazing!,” I reply. He smiles, proud of his talent.

Stephen is one of 39 employees with disabilities at CUP, an acronym for Coffee Uniting People. Tampa attorney Gregory D. Jones and his wife started the non-profit in 2021 and have opened two coffee shops so far (this location and one in Downtown Tampa), hiring primarily employees with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

The waiting list is long and growing, Jones tells me when we connect to talk about his mission.

Maggie: What a wonderful concept! What is your hope in employing people with disabilities?

Jones: I hope other potential employers or individuals will see what we’re doing and possibly give this opportunity to other folks with disabilities. And we’re always hopeful that someone might come along and find one of our employees and say, “You know, maybe he or she would be a great fit for our company,” and hire them on in another fashion. In general, we’re just trying to provide jobs for individuals who’ve had difficulty getting jobs because of their disabilities, and hopefully, that will expand to other folks to see what great employees these people are.

Maggie: What are you discovering about your employees once you give them the opportunity that no one else has given them before?

Jones: It’s wonderful. I have discovered that everybody has talents… and they want to work. They’re eager to work and do a great job. They’re very punctual. They’re very courteous and overall, they’re just really good employees. They have abilities that are sometimes not seen until you give them a chance.

Maggie: How do you suggest that people with disabilities or parents of children with disabilities advocate for themselves or their children?

Jones: It’s unfortunate because statistics show that about 80% of people with disabilities are employable, but are unemployed, so I think that the best way to advocate is to go out and ring the doorbell and shake the trees– just going in and being persistent. And to places of employment that don’t typically hire folks with disabilities, if you can get a meeting or a face-to-face or a phone call and get their foot in the door and give them a chance, I’m telling you, I would be shocked if an employer is disappointed.

CUP Coffee in South Tampa photo by Maggie Rodriguez
CUP Coffee location at 3408 S. Dale Mabry Hwy in South Tampa. Photo by Maggie Rodriguez.

Maggie: How can we in the Tampa Bay community support your mission?

Jones: Come and see us at one of our two coffee shops. And I can make this promise: you’ll leave CUP a little better person than when you walked in, with a smile on your face, knowing that you contributed to the lives of some very special people.

Volunteer opportunities are also available at CUP. Visit and follow @CoffeeUnitingPeople on social media.


CUP Coffee Locations and Hours in Tampa:


CUP South Tampa
3408 South Dale Mabry Hwy
Tampa, FL 33629
M-Th, 7 am – 7 pm
F, 7 am – 8 pm
Sat, 8 am – 8 pm
Sun, 8 am – 2 pm

CUP at Embarc Collective
802 E Whiting St.
Tampa, FL 33602
M-F, 7 am – 3 pm
(closed Sat. & Sun.)