HIRAM, Ohio (WJW) – Abra Schweickert and her husband, Jim, say the opportunity to open a donut shop was one they could not pass up.
Schweickert, who teaches a special needs class at Kenston Middle School, said she was talking with the mother of a student who was graduating out of the school’s program, asking what opportunities she might have afterward.
“As Margaret in particular was getting older and reaching that umbrella of 22, there were conversations that I used to have with her mom what would be like, ‘What’s happening next?’ and there aren’t very many meaningful opportunities out there,” said Schewickert. “There’s situations where they may be sweeping a church or doing the dishes or cleaning restrooms and they are capable of so much more.”
She came up with a vision to take over a donut shop that was previously known only as Maggie’s. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to showcase the capabilities of those with special needs.
“I had this vision of some sort of business that would allow them to be the center of the business and showcase what they are capable of doing,” she added.
The shop opened in 1999 with Margaret among the first hired. The “and MORE” was added to the name of the business to stand for “meaningful opportunities reaching everyone.”
Employees of the business have been found through word of mouth and from relationships with school systems, including Kenston and Hudson.
The employees work under the supervision of job coaches, some of whom come from nearby Hiram College as interns.
“That job coach is the person who is in the background to support in any way that they would need. Maybe to remember what the order was, maybe to remind that we need to put a paper in first, but it’s just the way for them to still allow that employee to be independent,” said Schweickert. “You would be amazed at what they are capable of doing. Employees can run the register. I can icon base it, I can color code it, I can put a picture icon in so that even if they are non-readers, they are able to do it.”
The shop has been tweaked to enable employees with disabilities to do tasks that include serving customers, creating smoothies and making change at the cash register.
Schweickert said the bonds that have been created both among the employees and with customers exceed the vision she had when she first opened the shop.
“We have some community members that have become kind of part of our family. We call ourselves the Maggie’s and MORE family. We have our regulars that come in every day. We also have some customers that come on certain days for certain employees,” said Schweickert.
Referring to the shop as her “happy place,” Schweckert says the vision is now to open even more similar shops that can help showcase the capabilities of employees with disabilities.
“Our dream is to open a chain of ‘and MOREs,’ to do something like a ‘sub shop and more’ or a ‘scoop and more’ or ‘pizza and more,’ but not necessarily continue the donut end of it. Just that concept of the ‘and more.'”