If celebrity chef and TV personality Rachael Ray had her say, there’d be a Beau’s Coffee Shop on every corner in America.
She’ll let her millions of viewers know just how she feels about the fledgling local business Wednesday, when a segment on the unique business airs on her daily talk show.
Beau’s Coffee launched in late January at 4414 Wrightsville Ave. with a specific purpose in mind: to give adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) the opportunity to find meaningful and gainful employment.
Through the power of social media, news of the innovative concept – likely the first of its kind in the U.S.–quickly reached Ray.
“We got a call from the show two days after we opened,” said Amy Wright, who created Beau’s with her husband, Ben. “And then it was about two weeks after that, they called with some follow up and the next thing you know, she sent a film crew down.”
That was Feb. 23, when cameras rolled at Beau’s for five hours, capturing some of the shop’s 18 employees and support staff. Wright said after that, the crew came to her home to hear the family’s personal story–the inspiration for the coffee shop.
The Wrights’ two youngest children, 11-year-old Beau–for whom the coffee shop is named–and six-year-old Bitty have Down Syndrome.
“They’re not looking for employment just yet but my husband and I are acutely aware of the need for employment opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities,” Wright said in a previous interview.
Then, two days later, while taping the March 2 episode in front of a live studio audience, Ray interviewed Wright and her staff via Skype.
“She gave us a huge endorsement…My employees were behind me and she talked to them. My son was sitting right beside me,” a tearful Wright recalled.
Paige Landsem, publicity coordinator for “The Rachael Ray Show,” said Ray “just loved” the idea behind Beau’s, noting during the taping that the small business was “going to give Starbuck’s a run for its money.”
The attention means a lot to Wright, but not because it will help boost her already booming business. She founded Beau’s, in large part, to help start a bigger conversation about workplace inclusion of people with disabilities. And, like Ray, she hopes to expand the concept across the country.
“Raising awareness in our community was a big step but having the opportunity to raise awareness on a national level is a dream come true,” she said. “Her lending her voice to this and shining a bright light on this is really amazing.”
Click here to see the”The Rachael Ray Show” segment, which aired locally at 9 a.m. Wednesday on CBS.
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.