Bullied Pizzeria That Employs Special-Needs Staff Gets a Warm Welcome in New Location

April 20, 2020 Updated: May 20, 2020

A Colorado pizza parlor that employs and empowers staff with special needs recently relocated to Englewood, and the downtown public has welcomed them with open arms.

Tiffany Fixter opened Pizzability in Denver and a partner project, Brewability, in 2016. Sadly, it wasn’t long before pizza parlor staff fell victim to a spate of bullying and financial struggle. Despite the hardships, the dedicated team never gave up and is prepared to take any challenge head-on.

Speaking to The Epoch Times by email, Tiffany shared the highs and lows of 12 extraordinary months in the pizza-making business and about their thoughtful future plans to make a positive difference in their new location.

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Tony Saponaro (L), pizza maker, and Tiffany Fixter, owner, at the former location of Pizzability. (Courtesy of Brewability Lab)

“I am a former special education teacher,” Tiffany said. “I switched to a job where I was a day program director. It was there I found out the severe lack of employment among adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I decided a brewery would be a great place for the entire community to interact.”

“I started Pizzability in the heart of a very affluent area,” Tiffany said. “People would say things to our staff that I couldn’t believe. We were only there one year before having to move.”

If a customer was rude, Tiffany would attempt to pull them aside and gently explain the differences or limitations of her staff, owing to their various disabilities. Tips, high-fives, positive interactions, and a relaxing sensory space in the office provided respite for Tiffany’s staff in the event of a difficult encounter with any customer.

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Members of the local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind host a Braille and Low-vision BINGO fundraiser at Brewability in Englewood, Colorado. (Courtesy of Brewability Lab)

When a local journalist witnessed what the members of staff were facing in July 2019, she posted a call to arms on social media. All of a sudden, Pizzability was back on the map. “We got slammed,” Tiffany said. “The lines wrapped around the block.”

However, the support dwindled just as quickly as it had arrived. Tiffany said that going viral does not ensure success. In December 2019, Pizzability received notification that its funding would not be renewed for 2020; the parlor’s sales were simply too low. Luckily, Bob and Carole Fixter, Tiffany’s parents, provided financial backing for the merging of Pizzability with Tiffany’s partner project, Brewability, in downtown Englewood.

“When one door closed,” Tiffany said, “another was opened for us.”

The new neighborhood comprises a mixed culture, Tiffany said. Two hospitals and a school for visually impaired students are located nearby, as well as accessible public transport links. To date, the new clientele has been far more receptive to what Pizzability has to offer, and far kinder to Tiffany’s hardworking staff.

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Anthony Scott (L), beertender, with volunteer Kristin Darga dressed up for The Bachelor premiere watch party in Englewood, Colorado. (Courtesy of Brewability Lab)

Tiffany said their new bar has a lowered section for wheelchair users, widened aisles, and a plethora of items catering to customers with sensory sensitivity including noise-canceling headphones, a quiet space with weighted blankets, and adaptive games. They even hold inclusive yoga classes on Saturdays.

“It really is a calming, beautiful experience for everyone,” Tiffany said. “We also have had successful events like Braille and Low-vision BINGO as a fundraiser for a local chapter of the Federation of the Blind.”

Occasionally, staff will encounter a new customer who appears to be out of their comfort zone. However, Tiffany expressed hope that the loyal staff, thoughtful resources, and inclusivity agenda could help alter people’s perspectives on disability for the better.

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Alex Randall, beertender, and his guide dog, Paulo, are getting ready for Guided By Humanity adaptive inclusive community yoga at Brewability. (Courtesy of Brewability Lab)

“I believe we have a chance to educate the public on the strengths and skill-sets that my staff bring to the table,” Tiffany said.

One customer that left Brewability having had a hugely rewarding experience was a woman named Kara, who has autism, and her mother. Kara’s mother, Julie, shared her thoughts on their visit with Tiffany.

“Miss Kara has been very antisocial with outings,” Julie said, according to Tiffany, “refusing to get out of the car 99 percent of the time.” On this occasion, however, Kara came inside.

“What a great choice she made,” Julie said. “She was greeted by people who get it. Offered chip options, soda, bucket of sensory items, bubbles, weighted blanket in a couch space, and all in a sensory-thoughtful space.”

Julie summed up hers and Kara’s mother-daughter outing to Brewability as a “monumental experience.” On April 9, the team updated on their Facebook page about their touching initiative for Kara—a fundraiser to get her a golf cart due to limited mobility.

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(L–R) Chelsea Whitaker, a certified occupational therapy assistant, Rachel Kurth, beertender, and AJ McCollum, manager, holding a pug for Guided by Humanity’s Pug Yoga at Brewability. (www.facebook.com/guidedbyhumanity) (Courtesy of Brewability Lab)

As of now, the Pizzability and Brewability family is on temporary hiatus due to the global outbreak of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

The team has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help support their staff through this troubling period of reduced business. They are even offering pre-purchasable gift certificates to give future customers something special to look forward to.

Tiffany said that all her loyal staff want to do is work. “Small businesses really rely on consistent, loyal customers,” she said. “Please support small businesses when you can.”

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(L–R) Julianne Perkins (Music Bingo- HeadTilt Entertainment), Nick Eckerling, beertender, AJ McCollum, manager, and Tony Saponaro, beertender, hanging out with random dinosaurs running around Englewood, Colorado. (www.facebook.com/CityofEnglewoodCO) (Courtesy of Brewability Lab)

“Most of my employees fall in the low-immune category,” Tiffany said. “It is a strange time in our world, but hopefully we will slow down a bit and all come out of this with compassion for our neighbors, a renewed strength within ourselves, and our economy will bounce back.”