Change the world

The moment I stepped through the door, Rebecca’s megawatt smile made my day. June 2019

“I would not change you for the world, but I will change the world for you.”Amy Wright, to her two younger children watching her on television

My sister and I just got back from a road trip to Savannah, St. Simon’s Island, and Jekyll Island, Georgia. We had agreed that there would be no timetables or constraints on this trip; it was strictly relaxation-oriented. However, there was one spot my sister insisted we MUST SEE, and I was happy to prioritize it, because I felt the same. That place was Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shop.

Bitty and Beau’s is cool, literally and figuratively.

I’m not particularly a coffee hound, and though my sister drinks more coffee than I do, neither one of us would ordinarily put a coffee shop at the top of our list. But Bitty & Beau’s is no ordinary coffee shop. Its founder, who is quoted above, is the mother of four children, the youngest two of whom have Down Syndrome. Though Bitty and Beau are still too young for employment, Wright was concerned that over 80% of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities are unemployed, and she set out to change that. In the process, she created a remarkable place for everyone to enjoy.

I had read about Bitty & Beau’s a few weeks ago when it was linked in one of the many disability-oriented resource lists I read from time to time, and I immediately wrote their headquarters to request that they open a shop near me. I got back a response that they plan to open another store in Annapolis, Maryland, in the near future, so I plan to visit there soon.

Meanwhile, I was planning the trip to Savannah, where they already had opened their third shop. I couldn’t wait to go. Although I hadn’t seen the clips of the shop when it was featured on broadcasts such as The Today Show, Rachael Ray, CNN, Harry, Good Morning America, Dr. Oz, HLN, People Magazine and Southern Living Magazine, even without knowing about the televised fanfare, I knew it must be something remarkable.

Bitty and Beau’s was all that I hoped it would be, and more. The interior was classy and appealing. The traffic was steady and the atmosphere a perfect refuge from the 90-degree heat outside. All that plus tea and coffee too? Count me in!

There were two baristas working when we went in. An assistant manager was behind the counter too, overseeing their work, but during the hour (or more) that we spent there, I did not see a single time when she told them what to do or corrected their work. She was simply another smiling face, chatting with us about the area and the store’s products.

Here’s a close up of that photo hanging on the wall, visible in the shot above.
The Wrights pose with the staff of the Savannah shop, probably on opening day.

My sister noted that, in between customers, the baristas stayed busy polishing up the bar stools, stocking supplies and going about their business in a variety of ways. Clearly, they had mastered the job and enjoyed doing it. But they didn’t mind stopping briefly to pose with me.

Andrew was reluctant to pose until he saw how much fun we were having and joined in.

I sipped my chai while enjoying the shop displays and marveling at the pin map, where customers could place a pin to indicate their home. For a shop that has been open less than a year, their global influence was quite impressive. There wasn’t room to put a pin into the DC area, so I managed to wedge one into southeastern Virginia, representing York County.

It’s hard to see unless you enlarge the photo, but the pins are from everywhere.

We had to tear ourselves away. I had never been to Savannah, so I knew I should get out and do some exploring. I got a delicious frozen lemonade to go, and reluctantly said farewell. But this stop was the highlight of my trip. Watch the clip linked above at Amy Wright’s name, and see if it does’t put a smile on your face. I’m pretty sure it will brighten your day.

The shop’s hashtag says it all.

Remember, we really can change the world. We might be unable to do something as grand and award-worthy as Wright has done, but we can capture the same spirit as we interact with others, one person at a time. We can do this in small ways, through donations, through supporting local businesses that aim for more than money, and through getting to know those we may have unintentionally disregarded. The biggest difference will happen in our own hearts. Try it!

18 Comments

  1. Amy

    What a lovely shop. Wish she was opening in VA rather than MD. I’m glad you and Carla had such a lovely experience. Hope the rest of your trip was that way. I hope Matt had a lovely time in Atlanta.

    • Well, if the company continues to grow, maybe Virginia will be added to the list. Thus far they are all in eastern coastal locations, so we can hope!

  2. Chris

    Hi Julia,
    You are right; it did put a smile on my face. What a wonderful idea for providing for her special children, and bringing the issue to light. Ms Wright is a special lady. Watching the video brought to mind a couple of my local friends who have children with disabilities. They have done some amazing things here, within the work of our local chapter of The Arc (https://www.thearc.org). It’s such a great organization and does so much good.
    I’m glad you had a great trip. Did y’all drive?
    Interestingly, my wife and I were in Georgia (near Atlanta) visiting her siblings the Memorial Day week. We had planned to drive to Savannah mid week and spend a few days. (We’ve never been there, even though she grew up in GA.) But, we felt it was too hot and decided to head back to NW Florida. So, the Savannah trip is merely postponed. I’m glad you told me about the coffee shop. That will certainly be one of the places to see, when we eventually get that way.
    Hope you have a great week!

    • Hi Chris, I”m glad you support the Arc! I have been a fan and supporter of them, at the national and local levels, for many years. They do an impressive amount of work in many areas, and unlike some agencies, which emphasize “for” over “with,” some of their local affiliates have activities that provide direct services to people with disabilities. Matt’s case manager is an Arc employee and I can say in all honesty that I’m not sure I would have survived the past 8 years without her. She has seen Matt and me through many very challenging situations.

      Like your wife, I grew up in Georgia but had never been to Savannah. Jeff and I went to Charleston, SC for our honeymoon and I had somehow expected Savannah to be much more similar to Charleston than it actually is. We flew into Atlanta and rented a car from there (I will spare you the story of how we got stranded when our rental car broke down and had to be swapped out for another…suffice it to say that we spent the first day of our vacation sitting in a hotel lobby! But all was not lost…) Savannah is unique and some of its neighborhoods quite charming. We noted most of all how many little squares there are in town, no two of them alike. Definitely worth a visit!

      • Chris

        Bless your heart; a rental car breakdown is so frustrating. Glad it ended well. Eventually, Jeanne and I will make the trip there.
        I’m glad you have great support with Matt. Our local chapter of the Arc is also fantastic. They make so many things and dreams come true for their clients.
        Have a nice weekend!

        • Thanks, Chris. I hope you and Jeanne enjoy Savannah and coastal Georgia. The one thing I would recommend is to go in the spring or fall, if at all possible. Summers are HOT!

  3. Susan

    Julie, this is so wonderful! I had not heard about Bitty and Beau’s before, but I’ll keep an eye out for future locations. I just liked them on facebook.

    If you’re in Richmond anytime, this place is wonderful:
    https://positiveviberva.com/

    • WOW Susan, how did I not know about this place? It’s not too far out of our much-traveled path between NoVa and York County, so Matt and I will definitely have to plan a stop there sometime! Thanks for telling me about it.

  4. Mitzie Puakea

    Love this, Julia❤️

    • Thanks, Mitzie. What a delightful surprise to see you here! ❤

  5. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. ☕️ I love the story of Bitty & Beau’s and so happy to see their expansion. I learned of them last year from a Willow Tree friend who spent several hours at the one in Charleston and shared the HAPPY experience. I’m so glad that you and Carla had such a delightful time there. I plan to go next week while we’re in Charleston. Those Golden Isles that y’all visited are a slice of heaven on earth, aren’t they? Thank you for this wonderful blog that jump started my week! 🍩 You’re my “extra sprinkles” friend! 🍩 ♥️ She

    • Sheila, I think those islands are a well-kept secret. Jekyll Island was the first vacation our family ever took (at least as far as I can remember) and I must have been about six or seven years old when we camped there, and we had not been back since that trip in the early 1960’s. My sister and I were happy to see it looking as good or even better than we remembered it. There were several buildings that had not changed, but the island itself is remarkably fresh, quiet and unspoiled, despite its long history as a tourist destination. I also was surprised how easy it was to get there. It’s refreshingly free of the usual “tacky tourist” spots that seem to spring up at any coastal destination. Of course the Spanish Moss is stunning, there and throughout coastal Georgia and South Carolina. Definitely a great place to get away from it all!

  6. MaryAnn Clontz

    Lovely family! I have heard of Bitty & Beau’s, but I think it may have been on Mike Huckabee’s show B4 he ran for president. No matter where I 1st heard about it, I was & am overjoyed with their kindness for those whom the world turns a blind eye! Precious loving people like we have in our Champion’s Club at The Father’s House church.
    So happy for your uncharted trip with Carla!
    Love to you & “my” Matt!

    • Mary Ann, they just opened their first shop in 2016, so you may be thinking of a similar place elsewhere. I hope so! We need as many of these “happy places” as we can get! Perhaps you and I can journey to Annapolis while you are here…can’t wait!! 😀

  7. Alan Malizia

    Julia, Happy you had such a wonderful experience. You are right about changing the world. A wealthy man said to God that he was disappointed that although he had riches it would never be enough to change the world. God told him each person’s responsibility is to change the world by starting first with there own heart.
    One by one, Julia.
    -Alan

    • Thank you, Alan, for being here and for being such a source of encouragement! Hope you are having a lovely summer in “the quiet corner.”

  8. Mike B.

    Any of these shops out in Atlanta area?

    • Not yet, but maybe someday…

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