An academy to help those with intellectual and developmental disabilities join the workforce has been given a permanent home.

Hugs Training Academy is an initiative from Hugs Cafe Inc., a McKinney-based nonprofit restaurant and greenhouse that employs people with disabilities. Students at the academy learn about the food service and hospitality industry. Classes began this spring at Trinity Presbyterian Church, located at 5871 Virginia Parkway in McKinney.

Now a new home is on the horizon. McKinney East, a local real estate developer planning a new village next to the upcoming municipal complex in downtown McKinney, has gifted Hugs Cafe Inc. a parcel of land to be the headquarters for Hugs Cafe Inc. operations and the future Hugs Training Academy facility. The land is located east of Hugs Cafe, across Andrews Street from the new Tupps Brewery complex.

“The Hugs Training Academy facility will provide a pool of skilled restaurant employees as well as a community awareness to inclusive hiring,” an April 12 news release from Hugs Cafe Inc. stated. “The daily use of the property will be for student training with an eventual use to have private event dinners as fundraisers and training opportunities.”

Owner of MSC Design Matthew Crittenden is taking the lead on the project design for the new headquarters, the release stated. In a March interview, Lauren Smith, director of development for Hugs Cafe Inc., said the academy should continue to operate out of the church location for the next two years.

Upon completion of the program at the academy, individuals will receive their food handlers certification. They will also be paired with a Hugs Cafe Inc. employment partner, who will interview the individual for a position at one of their businesses. Interested Hugs Cafe Inc. partners include Jason’s Deli; MOD Pizza; Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea; and Yum Brands, which owns Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell.

“McKinney East is excited to support Hugs Cafe’s new Training Academy. Hugs enriches the lives of the community and adults with special needs by helping them to use their God-given gifts and talents in meaningful employment," McKinney East officials said in a statement. "This Training Academy on the east side of [SH] 5 will expand opportunities in our community and beyond. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Hugs Cafe Inc. will be unveiling its final plans for the training facility and announcing its capital campaign goal this fall, the release stated.

More information is available by visiting or by calling Smith at 940-367-7016 or emailing [email protected]

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include a statement from McKinney East.