By Erin C., Junior writer
Sunday, April 8, 2018

(NEW FRONTIER NEWS)- A small South Carolina coffee shop, Bitty and Beau’s Coffee, is getting national attention. The coffee shop hires employees who struggle to find work because of intellectual or cognitive disabilities.

“I love parties, dance parties,” Sam Hazeltine, a barista, told Fox News while dancing behind a counter. “I got my groove on, I got my groove on…It’s fun. It’s a happy place.”

Two former Broadway performers, Ben and Amy Wright, opened the coffee shop in hopes of lowering the number of people unemployed because of physical or developmental delays.

Experts say more than 80 percent of individuals with disabilities are unemployed.

The coffee shop is located in Charleston, South Carolina and named after the Wright’s two youngest children, whom both have Down syndrome. The first Bitty and Beau’s Coffee was opened in Wilmington, North Carolina, in 2016.

The shop employs dozens of workers with disabilities ranging from Down syndrome to autism.

“People with and without disabilities should be working together shoulder to shoulder in every environment. That’s the point of what we are doing,” Ben Wright told Fox news.

“I think people with developmental and intellectual disabilities are not valued like people who don’t have those disabilities,” Ben Wright said. “I think they’re looked at… looked upon as broken, as less than… less than human. And we are here to say, they are not.”

They opened their second shop in Charleston this year, and it employs nearly two dozen people, serving up to 500 people a day.

Hazeltine is one of the workers. He was born with Down syndrome and began working at the shop in March when it opened.

“I’m trying to help,” Hazeltine told Fox News.

The Wrights train their employees in a classroom setting for about a week but do not use a set curriculum because everyone has a unique way of learning.

After each employee completes training, they work with members of the management team for on-the-job training, making more than the minimum wage, which is $7.25 in South Carolina.

Members from Family Connection, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting inclusion for those with disabilities, said they believe people with developmental or intellectual disabilities have a harder time finding an employer, due to a lot of misconceptions regarding what it would take to employ them than individuals with other disabilities.

“They are viewed as not having an ability versus seeing them as or the capabilities that they do have to our society,” Family Connection Executive Director Amy Holbert told Fox News. “Not only does it improve morale in the workplace, but it also improves productivity.”

She says research has shown corporations that hire people with developmental or intellectual delays described them as dependable, reliable, and engaged.

“Employment is great, but I believe integrated employment, meaningful employment, are what we need to strive for as employers and employees,” Holbert said.

The Wrights are looking for areas to build their next shop, hoping to open it by the end of next year.

“We hope to have shops all over the country one day, where we employ people with disabilities,” Amy Wright said. “Also, bring people together with and without disabilities so they can see how their lives have value just like everybody else’s.”


Garnier, Terace. (April 2018). SC coffee shop hiring people with disabilities is ‘human rights movement,’ owner says. Fox News. The United States.

Toner, Kathleen. (April 2018). How a cup of coffee becomes a ‘human rights movement’. CNN. The United States.