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A spirit that is not afraid

Bitty and Beau's coffee shop seeks to bring inclusion to the Auburn working community

<p>Auburn coffee shop, Bitty and Beau's, leads the way to inclusion and diversity on the Plains.&nbsp;</p>

Auburn coffee shop, Bitty and Beau's, leads the way to inclusion and diversity on the Plains. 

The first thing that catches the eye on the Bitty & Beau's website is their slogan in bold, capital white letters. “A human rights movement,” is no understatement. The coffee shop is making a difference across America, one coffee shop at a time.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "In 2022, 21.3 percent of persons with a disability were employed." There is a new voice not only calling for change, but working towards is.

Bitty & Beau’s is a chain of coffee shops begun by Amy and Ben Wright that has locations in 12 states. The mission of each location is to create and simultaneously advocate for more employment opportunities for the disabled community. 

The Wrights have 4 children: Lillie, Emma Grace, Beau and Bitty. Lillie was born with autism, and Bitty and Beau, the franchise’s namesake, were both born with Down Syndrome. 

Amy continually speaks out to raise awareness for the importance of employment for physically and intellectually disabled individuals. 

Through Bitty & Beau’s, Amy has been able to create hundreds of these opportunities, many of them her employees’ first jobs, and inspire others to do the same.

An Auburn location of Bitty & Beau’s was opened by Guy and Beverly May on Aug. 20, 2022, with over 100 people in attendance. Since then, it has been met with enthusiastic support from the Auburn community.

The Mays, originally from Tuscaloosa, moved to Auburn after leaving their previous jobs but felt that it was not yet time to start their retirement chapter of life. When they heard of Bitty & Beau’s, they knew that they had an opportunity to make a difference.

The Bitty & Beau’s location in Auburn has 26 disabled employees who work as cashiers, baristas and coffee callers, as well as eight disabled shift leaders. To accommodate their employees, they use clever systems such as easily recognizable playing cards instead of numbers for orders and a card-only policy.

With large windows taking up most of the front and side walls, Bitty & Beau’s is filled with the light of sunshine and positivity. Beverly May, glowing with joy at a table in the center of the shop, described it as a place where, “If you come in with a bad mood and leave with a bad mood, that’s on you!”

Beverly has endless stories of ways she has seen her employees blossom after only seven months of being open and hearing from their families how much their confidence has changed at home.

The Mays have created an atmosphere where their employees can do more than just open up to the world; they can prosper.

One Bitty & Beau’s employee, Tyler, worked his first shift with his family cheering him on in the coffee shop. This example from a single day of Bitty & Beau’s operation is just a small picture of the lives changed across America by the Bitty & Beau’s franchise and their commitment to creating opportunities.

The environment of inclusion and embodiment of a learning spirit the Mays have fostered in Auburn has affected many of their customers just as much as the employees.

One unique aspect of the Auburn location is the world map on a column in its center. It is dotted with yellow pins representing Bitty & Beau’s locations and hundreds of red pins marking the cities that customers and employees call home.

Groups of international Auburn students and residents meet regularly at Bitty & Beau’s. Beverly described a particular day that showed her just how much of a difference the coffee shop is making. She listened to a group order coffee and realized that they were using the conversation to practice their English, then watched in wonder as they walked over to the map and bonded over their pins in so many different countries.

A phrase repeated often at Bitty & Beau’s is that disabilities do not define those who have them, and a human rights movement is exactly what they are achieving. In the walls of every location is a place where everyone is welcome to learn, grow and flourish. Every coffee purchased there contributes to just that: in a world where so much is changing, everyone deserves a safe place and support to overcome the obstacles they face in life. 

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Hayden Hairston | Culture Writer

Hayden Hairston, a sophomore in communications with an English minor, is a Culture Writer at the Auburn Plainsman.

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