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Fold’d Community Diner - Coffee, Tea, and Empathy

Recovery-Friendly Workplace Opens in Somersworth, NH

The start of a new day at the Fold’d Community Diner begins with hot cups of coffee for the regulars who come in every morning for breakfast. For the staff at Fold’d, every day is a new beginning, and an opportunity to overcome the challenges in their lives.

Fold’d, so named for the things served that fold – think omelets, crepes and tacos – is a diner with a unique mission, says John Burns, executive director of the SOS Recovery Community Organization.

“(Fold’d) is a place where we can develop a workforce for people who are involved in the criminal justice system, or in recovery, to give them a chance and to do it in an environment that is safe and stable for them,” he said. “It opens opportunities to folks who are in some pretty tough spots, which is what this is all about.

With wide windows overlooking High Street, Fold’d is a full-service restaurant that earned rave reviews for its crisp bacon and the sense of community it has fostered since it opened last October. 

The story of how it went from concept to reality is a compelling one, built on the concept of safety, security, and empathy to foster opportunities for a demographic that could thrive with a solid second chance. Funded in part through American Rescue Plan Act funds and other grants, Fold’d is a social enterprise project operated and managed by SOS Recovery Community Organization, a 501c3 non-profit.

The community diner may well be the only one of its kind in New Hampshire, as it is run by a non-profit that is tax-exempt, Burns said, with a mission of assisting people in recovery. More than that, Fold’d is an example of something more.

  “It’s an example people in recovery succeeding,” he said. “There are people all around us in recovery and there are people thriving, breaking down barriers that stigma creates.”

Its location sets on a solid foundation of hospitality, as 69 High St. was the site of the former Teatotaller Café, proclaimed as a “queer hipster oasis of tea, coffee and pastry goodness,” for 10 years. When owner Emmett Soldati closed the café to continue growth in Concord and the Seacoast, he worked with a team to transform the space into an oasis of another kind – one offering care and support to the recovery community.

“We can’t forget all the aspects that help people feel like they are part of a community and that means employment, helping to find stable housing, and food security and helping them find the connections that are going to be with them,” Soldati said.

Fold’d staff serves breakfast and lunch in a bright atmosphere, between the natural light windows and bold teal and white colors. The big thing for waitress Bridget Baum, who has been in recovery for over 15 years, is what can’t be seen but is certainly felt – compassion, understanding, support.

The benefits of this support have a broader reach. According to New Hampshire’s Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative, there are 60,000 residents in recovery from addiction, many of whom just need some support, encouragement and confidence to return to the workforce.

“When you have community partners, investors, and organizations like SOS and Granite United Way taking a leap of faith and starting an entity like Fold’d, that taps into supporting assistance and a safe place for our recovery community and a great way to help our state,” said Chase Hagaman, economic director for the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs (BEA). “We view this as a pathway to help ensure that our state’s economy and communities are empowering our workforce, empowering our employers and ensuring that our economy is empathetic.

In the three months since Fold’d opened, Burns said his organization has been able to secure housing for two of its employees and that at least one employee has been promoted. More than that, the community has embraced the diner.

“When we came up with the community diner concept, we really envisioned something that brought in the entire community and we are seeing that,” he said. “The support has been tremendous.”