Bitty and Beau’s celebrates first year, the future and, above all, employees

“What we really want to celebrate, after this amazing year, is that our employees are role models and not charity cases. They’re role models, not causes. They’re capable, they’re amazing. They make me feel like we can take over the world.”

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Owner Amy Wright with her children Beau (left) and Bitty (right). (Photo by Benjamin Schachtman)

WILMINGTON – Bitty and Beau’s Coffee celebrated its first year on Wednesday, Jan. 25, with a ceremony that honored the employees as much as the business.

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A stretched out the door, as people watched their chance to help Bitty and Beau’s celebrate its first year (and to help Bitty enjoy some birthday cake).

The Wilmington coffee shop was founded by Amy and Ben Wright and named for their children, Bitty and Beau. Two of the couple’s children live with Down syndrome, and the Wrights have dedicated their business to empowering people with all types of intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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Ben Wright with his children, watching a film montage of the coffee shop’s busy first year. (Photo by Benjamin Schachtman)

The Wright’s story won the attention and admiration of the Today Show and Rachael Ray. Ray later made Bitty and Beau’s house blend the official ‘house coffee’ of the Rachael Ray show. Amy Wright said Ray’s endorsement was the “high point of our year – and we had an amazing year.”

“They’ve stayed in touch, and especially now that we’re providing them with coffee, we speak often,” she said. “They really do drink a lot of coffee. And Rachael’s a really great person, she just really wants to promote the good things people are doing.”

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Bitty and Beau’s has been visited by customers from across the nation – and across the globe – who leave their mark on the coffee shop. (Photo by Benjamin Schachtman)

Wright said her family business will have some exciting news to announce in the coming weeks, but that she wanted Bitty and Beau’s “birthday celebration” to “focus on the last year, what we’ve accomplished, the community that helped us get there, and of course our employees, who really made it happen.”

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Amy Wright gets a hug from Matt Dean, an employee who’d been with her since the beginning. “I’d never thought we’d see this kind of response,” Dean said. (Photo by Benjamin Schachtman)

The birthday celebration packed the shop’s 5,000 sq. ft. space, a former Hummer dealership donated last year to the Wright family by Rippy Automotive so that they could expand their business. The Wright family gave thanks to all who had helped them over the last year. Special guests included Allen Rippy and Mayor Bill Saffo, who gave the key to the city to Amy Wright.

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Amy Wright, surrounded by her employees, gets the key to the city from Mayor Bill Saffo. (Photo by Benjamin Schachtman)

But the real stars of the celebration were the employees of Bitty and Beau’s, who Amy Wright introduced one by one to the applause of the packed crowd. Several of the Wright family’s employees spoke about their experience, including Matt Dean, Jessei Guillame, Richard Hanson and Dustin Estabrook.

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Employee Jessie Guillame said she got emotional watching a recap of the previous year. “This place is amazing,” Guillame said. “It’s like going to work at Disneyland. Except it’s free.” (Photo by Benjamin Schachtman)

“If you know us, our family, our business, then you know they’re the heart and soul of this place,” Amy Wright said.

Ben Wright added, “what we really want to celebrate, after this amazing year, is that our employees are role models and not charity cases. They’re role models, not causes. They’re capable, they’re amazing. They make me feel like we can take over the world.”

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As the ceremony concluded, Bitty Wright invited the crowd to join her in enjoying some birthday cake. (Photo by Benjamin Schachtman)

Watch Bitty and Beau’s employees Matt Dean, Jessie Guillame and Dustin Estabrook celebrate and talk about their experiences, then watch Bitty and Beau blow out their “birthday” candles.