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Bitty & Beau's opens in Jacksonville

A coffee shop that employs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities opens in San Marco.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It's more than just a cup of coffee. Bitty & Beau's is a coffee shop that will host its Grand Opening Saturday in San Marco. First Coast News went behind the counter to see why the employees at Bitty & Beau's are the ones who make the business more than just your average breakfast stop.

You're greeted with a smiling face the instant you open their door. Bitty & Beau's serves coffee, pastries and other drinks prepared by employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Allison Schaub is ready for her first day at work.

"I like working at Bitty & eau's because I like to help customers with their coffee," said Schaub.

The business was started by Ben and Amy Wright as an option for employment for their children Bitty and Beau, who both have Down syndrome.

"Business is uniquely positioned to innovate its systems and processes and procedures around people with disabilities in ways that people haven't begun to think about yet," said Ben Wright.

The San Marco store in Jacksonville is the company's first store in the state of Florida and the line for their soft opening on Friday was almost all the way to the door. Some of the employees wrote thank you cards to customers.

The local franchise is owned by Lissie Hurst and Howard White. The company is based in North Carolina and opened their first store in 2016.

Employees work alongside people with previous restaurant experience and those with special needs work in all manner of jobs from cashiers to baristas.

"All of a sudden they start to get trained on making drinks or the point of sale system and all of a sudden they're doing things that no one thought they'd be able to do," said Wright.

On this day Schaub is calling out orders and passing out coffee to customers.

"They start to feel a place of belonging," said Wright, "they start to feel like the face of the business and they are the face of the business."

"This is my first job," said Schaub, "I was a little nervous, I was shy, I'm ok now."

Bitty & Beau's is more than coffee, it's more than a job.

"When you give them an opportunity and provide those accommodations and innovations around them, it's unbelievable what the human being can do," said Wright.

All with a smile on their face for their first day on the job.

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