Clintonville bakery thrives by putting employees with disabilities front-and-center
Glance above the counter at the Clintonville bakery Food for Good Thought, and it’s right there, printed in red. In 2018, the bakery’s customers tipped $653. These above-and-beyond incremental dollars provided more than 70 hours of paid employment to the individuals with disabilities, whose pictures hang on the opposite wall. But those numbers are now out-of-date. In 2019, tips more than doubled, reaching $1,350 and directly supporting 146 hours of work by people with disabilities.
In the decade since its founding, the bakery and its affiliated nonprofit have enjoyed meaningful growth. After getting its start in a church basement and employing two people on the autism spectrum for an hour each week, Sarah Duplessis, director of FFGT, says she never anticipated what’s transpired since. The bakery now employs 10 individuals with disabilities, covering their wages entirely through sales of their gluten-free desserts. And the bakery, Duplessis explains, is the “smallest program we have.”
Parents testify to the tremendous impact that Food for Good Thought is having on their children—giving them a purpose, teaching them independence, and changing their lives.Sarah Duplessis, director, Food for Good Thought
So what is FFGT other than a bakery? It’s a supportive-service provider, internship organizer, and one-stop shop for individuals with disabilities looking to enter the workforce. The organization serves nearly 250 clients every year, with a growing focus on helping young adults achieve independence.
Located at Ohio Dominican University, FFGT’s EveryBody Works transition program is unique in guiding teenagers with disabilities through college classes and internships. After the first semester, Duplessis checks in with students and their families. At these meetings, parents testify to the tremendous impact that FFGT is having on their children—giving them a purpose, teaching them independence, and changing their lives. But the benefit isn’t just for the students. Duplessis says it’s common for new business partners to sing the praises of their employees with disabilities. FFGT opens their eyes to the impact of a motivated and uniquely capable workforce.
Duplessis projects that enthusiasm for FFGT’s product and employees likely means that the next 10 years of growth will outpace the first decade. Six hundred percent growth in wholesale orders and a Thanksgiving rush that forced Duplessis to leave the confines of her office to help out in the bakery for the first time in years, both point to the reality that the organization is maturing. But even bigger changes are afoot for the social enterprise.
Witness the “For Sale” sign in the front lawn. The bakery plans to move this summer to a new location with a retail space, conference room, and significantly larger kitchen. The bigger location not only will permit the bakery to employ more individuals with disabilities, but will also give the public the opportunity to interact with those employees when grabbing their morning pastry, lunchtime brownie, or cheesecake to-go. For an organization that once considered closing as a result of financial constraints, the growth demonstrates that not only can social enterprises survive, they can thrive.
To support Food for Good Thought, visit their website at foodforgoodthought.com or visit the bakery at 4185 N. High Street.