This Thursday evening was much like other Thursday evenings. I was wiped out on the sofa watching Deborah Holt-Noel host North Carolina Weekend on PBS when the show highlighted, as it always does, a local business. This local business was different. Bitty & Beau’s Coffee is not only based in North Carolina, the owner’s primarily employ intellectually and developmentally disabled (IDD) individuals.
Amy Wright and her husband Ben were inspired by their son Beau and daughter Bitty, both born with Down syndrome, to provide a place where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities could find employment.
Bitty & Beau’s Coffee employs about 40 people with IDD, offering them an opportunity to learn skills and interact with people, oftentimes changing how individuals view and connect with people with disabilities.
I’ve been following their story ever since, but didn’t get to see the coffee shop in person until recently. Located in Wilmington, the coffee shop shares the same parking lot as the Rippy Cadillac on New Center Drive. The Rippy family donated the building to Bitty & Beau’s, which offered a much larger space than the original coffee shop.
Enchanted Airlie was on tap for the evening but there were a few hours before walking the garden to view the Christmas lights and decorations. The weather in Wilmington on this day was cold and rainy, the result of an Arctic blast from the North that brought with it snow, freezing rain and sleet across much of the South. The weather outside was frightful, in other words, perfect for a pre-Enchanted Airlie hot chocolate!
It was late in the day, a little before closing. Malik took my order. He was quiet and seemed a little shy, but he smiled sweetly as he handed me my receipt and playing card. Bitty & Beau’s use a playing card as a number for your order. It’s a pretty genius system that the employees can use to easily identify orders.
Since I visited, Amy Wright was named the CNN Hero of the Year, a well deserved honor. The company is adding a location in Charleston, SC, a trend I hope that will continue in the future. The way I see it this growth is a win-win. The customer gets a great cup of coffee with excellent customer service and people with IDD gain skills and the ability to show their value to the world. And how can you feel bad about that?
For a great cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate and to make a difference, go here:
Bitty & Beau’s Coffee
4949 New Centre Dr, Wilmington, NC 28403
Open Daily: 8 AM to 5 PM