This wonderful chain of coffee shops is providing steady jobs for employees with disabilities

Bitty and Beau’s coffee shops are like any other, offering a menu of various drinks and baked goods to customers. But they have something that sets them apart: the employees.

The chain was established in Wilmington, North Carolina, in 2016. It is dedicated towards the employment of people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

Amy Wright and Ben Wright started the cafe in honor of their two youngest children, Beau and Bitty, who were both born with Down syndrome. Their sister Lillie, an autistic sister, has created a Braille menu that will soon be available at all of their locations. Emma Grace, their big sister, is the creative director of the family business.

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Adopting hiring practice is Amy and Ben’s attempt to “change the way that people see people with disabilities.”

“Myself having two children with Down syndrome and one child with autism I have seen how they have been overlooked or marginalized,” she said. “And it’s really a result we believe of a social issue where people just have not recognized the inherent value of their lives.”

Amy and Ben Wright with their two youngest children Bitty and Beau
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Amy doesn’t blame anyone. She said it’s a matter of “sometimes when you are not exposed to something, you don’t care about it.” And that’s what they’re trying to change by creating a coffee shop that puts people with disabilities in the spotlight.

In Bitty and Beau’s, employees take orders, make drinks, and converse with the guests. Customers get a different view of people with disabilities by having their orders taken and served.

Instead of writing down names on a cup, Bitty and Beau’s uses a deck of playing cards to match a customer with their order.

The coffee shop’s employees say that having a stable job has made an enormous difference in their lives.

A Bitty and Beau's employee named Noah holding a coffee drink in his hand
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“I used to be shy and reserved before working here,” said Matt Dean, who began working at Bitty and Beau’s when it first opened. “I gained confidence, but I’ve also gained great friends here. It’s like a second family.”

The couple is well aware of the U.S. unemployment epidemic that affects people with disabilities.

“Statistically, there are 80 percent of people with disabilities unemployed across America,” Amy said. “We have our work cut out for us in creating some change in every state across the country. That’s our plan.”

They hope patrons will return to their businesses and advocate for people with disabilities being hired.

Amy said that historically, people with disabilities haven’t had the same job opportunities that other people do. These individuals are eager to join the workforce and are a sure asset to any business because they are “very loyal and hardworking.”

A Bitty and Beau's employee shaking hands with a customer
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“The attrition rate is next to nothing,” said Amy, who noted that most of their employees have been with them since each coffee shop was opened. “It’s a wonderful workforce.”

“The business world just needs to find ways to begin to feather in people with disabilities into the workplace, so that it doesn’t become the exception, it becomes the rule,” Ben said.

Bitty and Beau’s has 24 branches across 11 states, including five franchised locations and six corporate stores. 13 more are currently under construction or in planning stages.

The chain, which is clearly founded on love, is all about “changing the way people accept, respect, value, include, see, and love other people, not just serving a good cup of coffee,” according to the company’s philosophy.

A Bitty and Beau's employee using a wheelchair
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Bitty and Beau’s is continually expanding, and their stores have been awarded architectural design awards. Amy stated that it is more than just aesthetics that matters. She believes genuine hospitality is crucial.

They want the café to be a place where people want to go to connect with others in the community.

“Especially during this pandemic, we’ve found that if people are going to leave their house and go somewhere, they want it to be an experience,” she said. “They want to make it worth it otherwise you can have stuff delivered to your door.”

It’s great to see a coffee chain that promotes inclusivity above all else! Follow Bitty and Beau’s on Facebook, Instagram, and their website to learn more about their cause. 

You can watch the company video here:

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