BIXBY, Okla. -- Christie Knipp loves coffee – especially chocolate peanut lattes. Serving coffee as a professional barista was her first and only job. Knipp dreamed of one day starting her own business in “a coffee house environment where people can connect and meet up with friends.”
Being blind has not held Knipp back.
Her dream came true three weeks ago when she and her husband Phillip opened OMC! Oh My Coffee at 13160 S. Memorial Drive in Bixby.
Blindness is not an excuse or a crutch,” Knipp said. “Things have to be adapted possibly, but we are able to do whatever anyone else can do. I was raised by a blind mom, so that excuse never worked for me.”
Knipp’s visual disability is caused by the absence of irises known as aniridia, eye movement called nystagamus, which limits vision and optic nerve damage from glaucoma.
“You can do a barista’s job by touch and timing and hearing the way the milk is steaming,” Knipp explained. “As long as everything is in the right place and doesn’t get moved around, it’s a fairly blind-friendly job.”
“I just can’t drive. That’s the only thing. And you don’t have to drive to make coffee.”
Husband Phillip has culinary experience, so he takes the lead on preparing sandwiches, salads and baked goods.
“We complement with each other and can work really well together,” Knipp explained.
Knipp currently remains in charge – for now -- of the espresso machine, preparing and pulling the perfect shot for a growing number of customers.
“My husband is getting the hang of it, but there’s a lot to memorize – the number of recipes we have on the menu, how many squirts of each syrup and so on.” Knipp said. “It’s like bartending. You just replace alcohol with caffeine.”
Knipp, who has a degree in business and marketing, wrote a business development plan for her vocational rehabilitation counselor. Her counselor works for the Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired division at the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services in an employment program focused on helping people with visual disabilities.
Visual Services assisted with the start-up of OMC!, purchasing the espresso machine and other equipment and helping the Knipp’s secure the building.
“I believe credit should be given where credit is due,” Knipp said. “I’m thankful for Visual Services and their confidence in me.”
As a result, Knipp is moving closer to her next goal of becoming a taxpaying citizen.
“I don’t always want to be on SSI,” she said. “I’d rather be a working part of society. I don’t want to be on government assistance. I want to be a normal person like everybody else.” The Supplementary Security Income (SSI) program pays disability benefits to adults and children with disabilities.
OMC! Staff includes the Knipp’s 16-year-old daughter Sarah, who is legally blind and just got her food handler’s license. Working in the family business will be Sarah’s first job.
The couple also have a four year-old daughter Amber and a two and half-year old son, Sol.
The grand opening at OMC! is this Thursday, Nov. 29 at 4:30 p.m. Ambassadors from the Bixby Chamber of Commerce will be on hand for coffee samples and the official ribbon cutting.
The Knipp family plans to support local artists and musicians by displaying their artwork and inviting singers and songwriters to sing at OMC!, especially on the weekends.
Local musician and songwriter Callie-Jo will perform at 7 p.m. on Sat., Dec. 1.
For more information about OMC! Oh My Coffee, phone 918-394-1230 or stop by 13160 S. Memorial Drive in Bixby.