Food & Drink

Non-Profit Pop-In Cafe Pops Up at Brunswick Square Mall

Sam and Steve Bier display the choices and feel the fun at the Pop-In Cafe at the Brunswick Square Mall.   Credits: Maureen Berzok
The headline says it all!  Big plans! Credits: Maureen Berzok
Chocolate caramel popcorn.  Lead us not into temptation! Credits: Maureen Berzok
Local Boar's Head distributor is a big donor to this non-profit business at the mall.   Credits: Maureen Berzok

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ -  Sam Bier was tired of being the "cart guy" at the Shop-Rite. He was glad for the opportunity to work, and he worked hard. It was very hot some days, and very cold other days.  

He worked in East Brunswick, Ewing and Clark from 2009 to 2015. He worked all the time, yet it was time to find a new job. His dad thought so, too: "Some companies mean well, but they are limited in what they can offer."

Last year, East Brunswick's Dr. Steven Bier purchased a pre-established popcorn store at the Freehold Raceway Mall so that Sam, and other young people like him, could work inside and do what they do best--interact with people, enjoy their work, and feel proud of their accomplishments.  

Sign Up for E-News

Steve and his wife, "rock star" developmental pediatrician and Rutgers professor Dr. Barbie Zimmerman Bier, an expert in the study of Autism, told their son, "You may not want to work, but you have to."  They were interested in Sam's having some structure in his life and a sense of purpose in living.

Having lost their lease on the Freehold location, the Biers settled in a new location at the Brunswick Square Mall, in the store that was formerly Subway.  They were supported by Mayor David Stahl, who told them that "we definitely want you to come" to East Brunswick and who has worked with them extensively to get established at the mall.  

As a result, the Biers have opened the Pop-In Cafe, a non-profit popcorn, bagel, and sandwich store run primarily by young adults on the autism spectrum. These are intelligent workers who were bored with the repetitive and mundane tasks relegated to them in their former positions. Like anyone else, they want to be interested in their jobs.

The Pop-In Cafe serves bagels and coffee in the morning (mainly to mall employees) and oversized sandwiches at lunch.  The star of the show, though, is the popcorn which comes in varieties ranging from jalapeno to chocolate. "These guys are the best workers," Dr. Bier said. "It is the central aspect of their lives. They get experience in many tasks from simple ones to complex ones." 

Dr. Bier noted, "Unemployment of the autistic community is close to 90 percent. Higher-functioning people on the spectrum have even more difficulty."  Bier suggested that higher-functioning disabled people become bored more easily and feel the repetitous work and isolated conditions more keenly. He was delighted that one young man worked the cash register at the Pop-In Cafe and said, "I want to work here forever!" Bier said, "We make popcorn for the people!"

The Biers are not going it on their own. They have received support not only from Mayor Stahl and East Brunswick Chief Financial Officer Louis Nealy (who are currently encouraging them to open a branch at the East Brunswick Transporation Center to sell popcorn once a week) but also from local Boar's Head distributor John Palermo, who gives them a discount on the foods they use to make sandwiches for the Cafe's growing lunch crowd. Bier added, "We make a dozen New York-style sandwiches with quality meats for a great price.  What's not to love?" Their new sign was donated by Visual Graphic Systems of Carlstadt, NJ and President Milton DiPietro.

Volunteers help make the Pop-In Cafe work, too.  Agnes Cushing Ruby volunteers in support of her daughter, an employee of the store.  She is instrumental in developing the flavors, selecting the flavors that people want most, and slow-roasting them onto the corn.  All flavors are natural and made by hand.  Family friend Paul Campanaro is using his retirement to oversee operations.

East Brunswick High School will get involved, too.  Dr. Zimmerman-Bier had "an extensive conversation" with Sharon Weber-Oleszkiewicz, of the EBHS Special Education Department about student work placements.

The new non-profit business is proud to be one of many "non-chain" eateries in East Brunswick.  The Pop-In Cafe is the first business of its type in town.  Says Dr. Bier, "Eat well. Do good."

*The Pop-In Cafe is currently offering a 25% discount to customers who mention TAP into East Brunswick when ordering.  Enjoy!


TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

East Brunswick

East Brunswick's Ethan Reiss Saves the History of Who We Are

July 15, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - To some people, lists of names and pictures of locations just create a jumble of information and a confusing mass of facts.  To Ethan Reiss, a historian from East Brunswick who is working to keep facts alive, these bits and pieces come together to form a picture of who we are based on who we were in the past.

Reiss, the administrator of the popular "You Know ...

East Brunswick Council Candidates Respond to Mayor Cohen’s Comments in Recent TapInto Article

July 18, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ- Councilwoman Camille Clark and Council Candidates Curt Philipczak and Dhar Khona released the following statement in response to Mayor Cohen:

“While the TAP article and the Mayor focus on the semantics in differentiating between the phrases and terms “Redevelopment Zone” and “other” new construction, the end product is the same.  Simply ...

Learn How to “Ace The Interview” at the East Brunswick Public Library

EAST BRUNSWICK—Looking for a new job? East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) is here to help. The library offers a special program called “Acing the Interview” on Saturday, July 21 at 10:30 am, which is designed to help jobseekers.

“Acing the Interview” focuses on what many feel is the most stressful part of the job search process: the ...

Learn About Food Preservation at the East Brunswick Public Library

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—East Brunswick Public Library and the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission are presenting the special program “Food Preservation 101” at the library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) on Wednesday, August 1 at 7:00 pm.

“Food Preservation 101” covers the basics of food preservation. The program is led by Shailja Mathur and ...

East Brunswick Public Library Hosts "An Olde-Time Summer Band Concert"

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) is more than just books. On Sunday, July 15 at 2:00 pm, the library hosts a special concert featuring the Central Jersey Wind Ensemble.

Titled “An Old Time Summer Band Concert,” the concert is a sponsored by the Friends of the Library. The Central Jersey Wind Ensemble will perform a variety of ...

East Brunswick Public Library Hosts Special Health Day

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and East Brunswick Public Library are teaming up to host a special evening of health programs at the library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) on Wednesday, July 11.

Horizon will be providing blood pressure and blood sugar screenings in the library from 7:00 to 8:00 pm.

The program “Brain Games – Keep ...

People I've Known and Been: Little by Little by Rich Little

People I've Known and Been: Little by Little by Rich Little (Dog Ear Publishing, 2015)


Rich Little is a national treasure; a living encyclopedia of movie stars, comedians, and former presidents all wrapped into one dynamic package. Recently, my husband and I had the good fortune to see Little perform at the Tropicana in Las Vegas, where he has been doing his uncanny ...

Lucia, Lucia by Adriani Trigiani

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani (Ballentine Books, 2003)


If a summer romance novel is what you are craving to read as you sit by the pool or beach, Adriana Trigiani's Lucia, Lucia is a perfect choice. Set in 1950 New York City, the novel is about a young woman, Lucia Sartori, who is determined to have a career and be able to support herself, an unusual choice for a girl who was ...

To Our Current and Future Representatives

July 17, 2018

To Our Current and Future Representatives - Wherever They May Be:

We can never forget we are a nation of immigrants. 

We cannot fall prey to fear, ignorance and anger when we  have been historically driven by freedom and justice. 

We must have the courage and will to fight hate, bigotry and prejudice. 

We must not wake up to what we hoped was a bad dream and ...

5 Simple Ways to Save Water this Summer

According to the L.A. Times, the average American uses an estimated 98 gallons of water EACH day.  

Here are five simple ways you can save water, to help you conserve water this summer and take some pressure off of your drains.

1. Unless you are using it, turn the faucet off. How many of us still leave the water running while we shave or brush our teeth?According to ...