Student-run snack stand opens at Milford library

Maybe you thought it wasn’t OK to sip a beverage or snack on chips in the library.
But not so. In fact it’s just the opposite at the Milford Public Library, where a new student-run snack stand and beverage cart encourages library patrons to buy something to eat or drink and sit down with their favorite book.
City Perks just opened at the Milford Public Library last week, and it’s an extension of the Parsons Perks mobile coffee station nearby at the Parsons Government Center.
City Perks, like Parsons Perks, serves coffee, pre-packaged snacks and cold beverages. The business is operated completely by students from the Milford school district’s Fifth Year Vocational Experience program who continue their formal education process through age 21.
Milford teacher and transition coordinator Joanne Barrett got the idea in 2016 to launch a business in which students with special needs could gain important vocational skills.
“My mission was to create a way for my students to learn valuable employability skills in a public environment,” Barrett said. “These students have huge potential and can easily become tax-paying, contributing citizens — but they needed a way to get some real experience before they transition from school to work.”
The program also sees students connect with local businesses for job experience. And like Parsons Perks, and now City Perks, those job experiences help the students learn customer service, communication and problem solving skills. They are also exposed to sales, time management and responsibility.
Barrett was with students Kenneth Szygiel and Paul Pierelli at the library this week, where the mobile cart is open Mondays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“We haven’t had a big line yet,” said Pierelli, explaining that word is still getting out about the coffee cart. Library staff members make announcements during the day to let patrons know the stand is open.
Barrett said she had been looking to expand the program when she connected with the library director.
“This is our satellite location,” said Barrett, explaining that the library version is a little smaller than the one at the Parsons Government Center.
“Like Parsons, there was nothing here before,” Barrett said. “We looked at the Barnes & Noble model, with its café, and saw how much people enjoy that.”
Library Director Chris Angeli said the library always allowed closed drinks and small snacks, just no messy foods.
“We want to make sure people are comfortable here,” Angeli said. “Just like at Barnes & Noble.”
While some might wonder if eating and drinking around a book is a good idea, Angeli says that when people take books home with them they may be sipping drinks or snacking while they read. So this really isn’t anything out of the ordinary.
Angeli said she had heard recently through City Clerk Joanne Rohrig that Parsons Perks was looking to expand, so she reached out to Barrett to get the program at the library.
“These kids are doing a great job,” Angeli said. “This is a win win.”