A female café employee in a purple T-shirt hands a travel coffee cup to a customer while smiling broadly.

MIND Institute café now open, serving coffee, tea and baked goods

New operator Purple Tree Café is a nonprofit that employs people with disabilities


There is a new option for coffee, tea and snacks on the UC Davis Health campus. The UC Davis MIND Institute’s café has reopened, roughly four years after it closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Davis-based Purple Tree Café, a nonprofit organization that employs people with disabilities, operates the café on the second floor of the MIND Institute. The café was previously run by another organization.

A female café employee in a purple T-shirt hands over a travel coffee cup to a customer while smiling broadly.
Purple Tree Café’s Kelsey Fortune hands a coffee to MIND Institute employee Fred Hawley on the morning of April 22, opening day for the café’s new operators. 

“Purple Tree is the perfect fit,” said Lisa Gaynes, practice manager at the MIND Institute’s Massie Family Clinic. “They have experience working with and training individuals with disabilities as well as a track record of running a successful business. Their focus on creating community-based employment opportunities and their passion for sustainability is perfectly aligned with both the MIND Institute and UC Davis Health.”

Purple Tree specializes in organic, handcrafted vegan and wheat-free baked goods, teas and other beverages. They are regulars at the Davis Farmer’s Market and also operate from a bicycle-driven coffee cart. The MIND Institute is Purple Tree Café’s first brick-and-mortar location.

A chocolate cookie on a white plate sits next to a blue and black coffee mug on a marble tabletop.
Chocolate raspberry cookies are among the baked goods and other treats Purple Tree Café sells. 

The new location's menu includes a variety of teas, coffees and lemonade. It also offers treats such as cherry granola, almond biscotti, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, lemon blueberry scones and more.

"Given the MIND Institute’s work, we really cannot think of a better location for Purple Tree Café’s first storefront,” said Jason Sullivan-Halpern, executive director of Purple Tree Café. “We’re excited for researchers, clinicians, patients and their families to meet our staff and support their work in our community.”

The cafe's success, Sullivan-Halpern added, will serve as an example to other employers of what’s possible in a supportive work environment for people with disabilities.

Three café employees stand together in front of a coffee machine with their arms around each other, smiling.
Purple Tree Café employees left to right, Jacob Amato, Tone Martinez and Kelsey Fortune prepare to greet customers on opening day, April 22. 

“It is wonderful to be able to provide new jobs for adults with developmental disabilities in our building,” said Marjorie Solomon, interim director of the MIND Institute. 

“Having a job provides a sense of purpose, a way to interact with the community and an income. Employment is a strong predictor of better mental health and life satisfaction,” Solomon said. She is currently leading a study to test a new employment model for adults with developmental disabilities.

The café is open from 8 a.m. - 2 p.m., Monday-Friday. It is open to all: employees, patients and the public.

“I am so excited to get to know the new team members running the café,” said Michele Ono, MIND Institute chief administrative officer. “I used to go to the café almost daily to get coffee and chat with the employees. It was a nice way to start my day, and I look forward to doing that again.”