WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A coffee shop in the port city that has gotten attention across the country could soon be opening up all across the country.
Bitty and Beau’s Coffee Shop is officially franchising.
It all started for Amy and Ben Wright as an idea, an opportunity and a chance to bring change.
“Change the national statistic of 70% of people unemployed that have intellectual disabilities,” Amy Wright said.
When Photographer Matt Ray heard about it, he said he knew change was coming.
“The very first time I saw on Facebook that this place was going to open I called them and said ‘I would love to come and photograph your opening,’ because I knew this is going to be huge,” Ray said.
He has been documenting every moment, every opportunity at Bitty and Beau’s Coffee ever since.
“It’s probably the happiest group of people I’ve ever photographed,” Ray said.
Wright said that happy group, that idea turned into something she never expected.
“We’ve become a destination for people, for families that are raising their children with special needs,” Wright said.
“The coffee is great,” a customer said. “The food is really good and it makes you smile. It makes you feel really good about contributing to something so great.”
Even state and US politicians have stopped in to support it.
“It’s great, because our leaders need to see this model in action and how they are capable of earning an income and it means a lot to them,” Wright said.
“You know, I’ve been shooting for 13 years and, often times, when I’m photographing you can see what’s genuine on people’s faces and what’s not and they are some of the most genuine people,” Ray said.
That is why Wright hopes to expand in more than just franchises.
“We’re hoping that aside from Bitty and Beau’s Coffee growing that other businesses, too, will adopt this model,” Wright said.
Meanwhile, Ray is trying to help her employees reach a goal of their own.
“Often times when I come in here, the employees, if they’re all grouped together, they’ll dab for the Panthers,” Ray said.
They are hoping for a visit from a certain player.
“I said let’s shoot a quick video and let’s see if we can get Cam Newton to show up,” Ray said.
While Ray continues capturing these genuine moments, Wright said it is the genuine support that makes them believe in the change.
“This is a social movement for acceptance and inclusion and most of all valuing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Wright said.
Wright said you can apply online if you want to open a franchise. She said she has gotten inquiries from cities all across the United States.