By Mariah Bennett | Staff Writer
Bitty and Beau’s Coffee opened its first Texas location at 10 a.m. on Saturday at 110 Franklin Ave. The coffee chain has locations all over the nation, and it focuses on employing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Bitty and Beau’s Coffee was founded in Wilmington, N.C., by Amy and Ben Wright. The couple has four children — Lillie, Emma Grace, Beau and Bitty — and each child is involved in some aspect of the shop.
“It’s a family business for sure,” Amy Wright said.
According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, the Waco franchise was opened by Mark and Amy Sauer. Amy Wright attended the Waco opening and said it was fantastic, sharing that it was wonderful to see how many people showed up and cheered on the employees.
“Just to see that line out the door all day long is just so validating,” Amy Wright said. “For our employees to know that people are willing to wait to grab a cup of coffee and share a conversation with them [is great].”
Amy Wright said there were many Baylor students at the opening, coming in to study and meet up with groups.
“Every time we open a shop, we are blown away by the outpouring of support in the community, and Waco was no different,” Amy Wright said.
Tulsa, Okla., junior and Best Buddies president Natalie Stitt attended the shop opening and said she knew about the coffee shop from one of her best friends.
According to its Connect, Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization in which Baylor students are paired with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, encouraging inclusion and community.
Stitt said she thought the chain coming to Waco was incredible.
“I think Waco has a lot of people in the disability community, so having this and showing our support, love and recognition to them is just amazing,” Stitt said.
Bitty and Beau’s Coffee has a goal of radical inclusivity and having people with intellectual and developmental disabilities be seen as being as valuable as everyone else. When looking for franchising opportunities, Bitty and Beau’s emphasizes the idea that it is a “human rights movement disguised as a coffee shop.”
“As people come into our coffee shops, they start to see people with disabilities differently,” Amy Wright said. “It just takes one cup of coffee at a time to really shift perspectives.”
To Amy Wright, radical inclusivity is meeting people where they are, accepting them and loving them for who they are. Amy Wright said it is extremely important for people with disabilities who have been marginalized and segregated to be included.
“I think this is a real chance as people come into our coffee shops to see them differently and be radically inclusive in every aspect of their life when it comes to people with disabilities,” Amy Wright said.
Amy Wright said the newest Waco shop is the first of many future Texas locations. These are coming in 2022 and include Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.
“Our plan is to have shops in every state across the country and eventually across the globe,” Amy Wright said.
Wright said the Waco shop hired 25 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, with an additional support staff of five people who are typically developing and working alongside them.
Stitt said it is exciting to see several of her buddies from Waco working at the new shop.
“Kevin, Shelby, Andy — they’re all friends of mine from that,” Stitt said. “I’ve hung out with them since I was a freshman … so that’s really exciting.”
Amy Wright said that while things are evolving and improving for those with disabilities, there is still a lot of work to do. She said that any business in America could benefit from hiring someone with a disability.
“It changes everything about the workplace in the best way possible,” Amy Wright said. “I think it’s time for business owners to think outside the box when they go to hire their next employee and consider someone with a disability.”