#parent | #kids | Dallas coffee shop La La Land, which employs former foster kids, is opening a second location on Oak Lawn

When La La Land Kind Cafe opened in 2019 on Greenville Avenue, customers came out in droves to check out Dallas’ first coffee shop dedicated to hiring young adults who have aged out of the foster-care system.

Owner Francois Reihani is expanding his business when he opens a second La La Land, on Oak Lawn Avenue in Dallas, on Monday, July 27, in place of a former Starbucks.

“We’re on a big mission,” says Francois Reihani, owner of La La Land Kind Cafe, days before he opens his second coffee shop in Dallas.(Kenny Pham)

He’s bubbling with passion about his mission, “to create a ton of awareness” about the difficulties that foster-care youths face when they exit the system and try to find work. La La Land was designed to feel like “you’re walking into this dream world,” Reihani says, and it’s outfitted in bright white and pops of yellow. He hopes it provides a happy place for customers and employees alike.

“We want people to walk in here and feel how special it is just to be alive,” he says.

The shop sells one of the city’s biggest selection of matcha drinks, as well as espresso, cookies and breakfast bites like avocado toast — all made with organic ingredients. The shop on Oak Lawn will be a smaller version of the original.

So far, the company has worked with 10 former foster-care kids. The experience wasn’t successful for all of them, Reihani admits: “Three I absolutely failed,” he says. “I tried very different ways and we couldn’t do anything for them. I was very hopeful for helping every single youth. That was a huge shock for me.”

He says there’s no one-size-fits-all model for helping people who have changed schools and been traded among foster families for years.

“Nine out of 10 times, they say they need someone stable in their life,” Reihani says. “They say, ‘I need someone to care about me, to love me, to be there when I need them.‘” Reihani has some plans in place to offer mentoring and therapy but says he’s still working on a bigger “handbook” to expand the program. He plans to hire another five to 10 former foster-care workers in the coming months.

Five months ago, staffers started saying “I love you” when each customer left the Greenville Avenue shop. (Reihani also said it at the end of our interview, just as we were getting off the phone.)

“We want to bluntly prove how important kindness is,” he says.

La La Land owner Francois Reihani opened the first coffee shop, on Greenville Avenue in Dallas, at age 23.
La La Land owner Francois Reihani opened the first coffee shop, on Greenville Avenue in Dallas, at age 23.(Lawrence Jenkins / Special Contributor)

While the staff includes former foster-care youths, the staff is not made up exclusively of those who have aged out of the system. Whoever he hires, Reihani says he doesn’t choose “serious baristas.” As in: “I don’t really care where you worked.”

“We’re going to push this golden heart onto people, that kindness can literally change the world. Some people actually think we’re insane. We’re one little coffee shop, how are we going to change the entire framework? But if we do it right, we could affect change,” he says.

Opening the shop during the spread of COVID-19 across Texas was a challenge, he says, but coffee shops have fared better than sit-down restaurants because of their grab-and-go structure. Both the Oak Lawn and the Greenville Avenue shops will eventually have a smartphone app. The company protocol is to sanitize every surface every 15 to 30 minutes when an alarm dings; employees must wear masks; and employees are required to wash their hands every time they walk behind the coffee bar.

For now, the new coffee shop will not allow indoor seating.

The pandemic hasn’t softened Reihani’s ambitions to spread his message. He plans on opening more La La Land coffee shops both inside and outside of Texas — and says opening more stores means his company can make more money to help at-risk young adults.

“We’re on a big mission,” he says. “We’re trying to prove a great point.”

The new La La Land is at 3330 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas.

For more food news, follow Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter at @sblaskovich.




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