DALLAS, N.C. —
It’s not quite Thanksgiving yet, but Special Blendz Coffee & Ice Cream Shop is buzzing on caffeine, sugar, and the Christmas spirit.
The business, which opened last August in Dallas, North Carolina, employs people with special needs. Owner Alan Routhier said he got the idea after opening a special needs daycare in Gaston County in June.
“I realized after seeing all of our kids in action and everything, they go to school, and once they get out of school and graduate, there’s nothing for them to do after that,” he said.
Routhier said a job at Special Blendz gives people with special needs the opportunity to thrive.
“So we actually employ them and give them ultimate responsibilities here. There’s unlimited possibilities. So much for them to do all day here throughout multiple shifts,” he said.
Routhier worked as a director of marketing in uptown Charlotte before he moved back home to Dallas to follow his passion for working with individuals with special needs.
“I hold a couple of different (special needs) certifications, and I have 13 years of experience as well,” he said.
It’s not hard to find workers. Routhier said there’s actually a waitlist filled with people who want to be employed at Special Blendz.
“We’re constantly having others come in. So we’re trying to see what other opportunities we can allow for them to do within this concept. Maybe expand from here,” he said.
If employee Jacob Lawson had his way, he’d never leave the coffee shop, as he demonstrated in an enthusiastic exchange with Routhier:
“I’m aiming at 10 hours,” Lawson said.
“A day?” Routhier asked.
“Yeah, a day,” Lawson answered.
“How many years you want to work here?” Routhier asked. “Until you retire?”
“Yes,” Lawson replied.
Lawson’s favorite part of the job is the little bit of flair he delivers to his customers.
“Dancing,” Lawson said.
“Elaborate. Tell them what you do here,” said Routhier.
“I do ice cream and coffee, not only do I do that, but I do dancing,” Lawson replied.
Routhier said that’s the kind of experience customers can expect when they drop in at Special Blendz.
“The interaction that they get with them is more or less the real kicker. They absolutely love it. And sometimes you might even get a dance from good old Jacob over here. If you’re lucky,” he said.
The ultimate goal of Special Blendz, according to Routhier, is service with a purpose.
“To bring more awareness to our area for our individuals and to give them a working chance at life because they deserve and want things like everybody else,” he said.
Special Blendz Coffee & Ice Cream Shop is located at 104 East Main Street in Dallas. It's open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Sunday.