Coronavirus forces Chicago coffee business that hires veterans to lay them off instead

A Chicago coffee maker that was created to give veterans jobs has had to lay them off instead.

The West Side business is still focused on its mission, though, even as the coronavirus pandemic decimates sales.

Veteran Roasters provides more than a job for Jessie Abecilia.

“They're my family. It's like my second family,” he said.

But the Navy veteran is the last one standing. His eight co-workers, all vets themselves, just were laid off from Veteran Roasters, which partners with Passion House Coffee Roasters in East Garfield Park.

“We were able to pay everybody for four weeks and then sadly had to lay off everybody last week,” said Veteran Roasters CEO Branden Marty.

For Marty it was especially painful, since the business is all about helping vets.

“Our number one mission is to make great coffee, but almost more important is to employ, hire and support formerly homeless as well as chronically unemployed military veterans,” he said.

Most of their coffee is sold to restaurants, hotels and corporate clients, which are all places that immediately stopped buying.

“When all those businesses no longer have people coming or showing up at work, they don't drink coffee,” Marty said.

Now, Marty is trying to brew up e-commerce on and find retail outlets, like grocery stores.

In addition, a GoFundMe page has generated almost $10,000 for the laid off workers.

“Nobody is going to be homeless or hungry. We got enough to pay for rent and food and things like that at least through the end of June,” Marty said.