WASHINGTON - A new coffee shop in Georgetown does more than just serve coffee, it's changing lives and giving chances.
It’s called Bitty And Beau's Coffee and they just celebrated their one-month anniversary with no shortage of customers through the door. The corporation was founded by Amy and Ben Wright in 2016, in honor of two of their children Bitty and Beau, who both have Down Syndrome. As parents of children with disabilities, the couple saw first-hand the challenges those with intellectual and developmental disabilities have when it comes to meaningful employment.
"80% of people with disabilities are unemployed in our country and we think that is unacceptable" Amy Wright told FOX 5.
They decided they needed to help change that statistic.
"We started this coffee shop chain to employ people with disabilities and to show every guest that walks through the doors what’s possible when you give people with disabilities a chance," Wright said.
The coffee shop started in a small 500 square foot location in Wilmington, North Carolina and over the years has expanded across the country with 23 locations and offers franchise opportunities.
Now, Wright says, Bitty And Beau’s has employed over 350 people with disabilities across the nation and says, "we are just getting started."
Max Gulley, 18, is one of the 350 employees and works at the new Georgetown location. He says this is the first job he has ever had and that it has had a very positive impact on his life.
"This is the best first job I could have asked for," Gulley said.
He enjoys working as the cashier and interacting with the customers. Gulley says he’s the first person the customers see when they walk in the door, and he likes to give them a good greeting with a smile on his face.
But there would be no coffee shop without baristas like Eric Aikens mixing and blending the shop's signature drinks.
Aikens’ coworkers call him the mixologist of the shop because he is known for adding his own spin to his drink making skills. He says his favorite drink to make is the Cotton Candy Frappe and that working at the shop has changed his life because Bitty And Beau’s is a "family."
"The manager and the owner are really good people, and they care about people's feelings and how they treat other people," Aikens said.
When Amy and Ben reflect on their journey with Bitty and Beau’s, they are humbled everyday by the impact the shops, their message, and mission have had on communities and the world.
"It chokes us up. We cry every day, tears of joy, because of the moments that happen in the coffee shop. The families that come in with their children looking for a glimpse of hope, what could their child’s future look like. And we’re just honored to be vessels for demonstrating that" Wright said.
Wright’s wish is that everyone that comes in the shop leaves with a new perspective and considers hiring someone with a disability.
And Gulley agrees.
"People with disabilities are not broken, and never will be broken," Gulley said.
Bitty And Beau’s Coffee is located at 3207 M Street, NW at the corner of M street and Wisconsin Avenue.
You can learn more information about Bitty And Beau's here.