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Coffee shop gives surprise job offers to employees with disabilities Bitty & Beau's Coffee hires 30 ahead of Annapolis location opening Saturday
Capital - 2/3/2020
Bitty & Beau's Coffee, a North Carolina-based company whose stores are operated by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will open its fourth location Saturday on Dock Street in Annapolis.
Owner Amy Wright said because 80% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are unemployed, when they make hires for a new store they coordinate with the families of prospective employees to surprise them with the job offer, to make the moment extra special.
Last Sunday, a number of new employees who thought they were taking a trolley ride learned when it stopped in front of Bitty & Beau's that they were actually getting a job offer and an apron.
The coffee shop released a video of the surprise on its Facebook page Friday, heart-warming scenes of families and friends hoisting signs cheering on the new employees, who smile when they put their aprons on for the first time.
Amanda Blankenship thought she was going downtown with her sister to try to get a spot in a commercial for the trolley. She said she was excited and cried when she heard the news that she got the job - she had been hoping for a position since the company first announced it was opening an Annapolis location last spring.
"It feels good in my heart to be kind to other people," she said.
Making connections is a part of what the shop is all about, Wright said. The shop is set up with one long counter, so there aren't barriers between the employees and the customers.
Wright, who has two children with Down syndrome for which the shop is named, said there is a social problem where the lives of people with disabilities are not properly valued. Her hope is that customers who have not spent time with people with disabilities will leave the shop with a new perspective.
"A lightbulb goes off," she said. "You can't help but connect with them, love them, see their value."
And the hope is with that new perspective, people will also start thinking about opportunities to incorporate more disabled workers in their own career fields.
Employees who couldn't attend the trolley surprise didn't miss out. Wright said store manager Megan Young surprised some at a Pilates class and at a dance class, and for others she visited their homes with the news.
All 30 of the new employees got a surprise. Employees will make more than the minimum wage, and Wright criticized what she called archaic laws which enable employers to pay their disabled employees a sub-minimum wage. Everyone is working just as hard, she said.
"We are trying to make a point that they are not a charity case, can bring real value to our business and deserve to be paid like other employees," she said.
The store at 124 Dock Street will open at 10 a.m. Saturday with a ribbon cutting, and will be open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Caption: Bitty & Beau's Coffee owner Amy Wright, center, named her business after her two children, Bitty and Beau.