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Photo: Howdy Homemade
Chase Bank selected Coleman Jones of Howdy Homemade (an ice cream shop that believes people with special needs make great employees) for one of its advertising campaigns.

Although many food shops have struggled in the pandemic or even had to close, Howdy Homemade, an ice cream parlor in Dallas, is doing just fine. That’s because all sorts of people who believe in its mission stepped up to support a GoFundMe.

Jake Lourim writes at the Washingoton Post, “Tom Landis was 46 when he gave all he had to open a business he felt called to run. On Dec. 26, 2015, the ice cream store Howdy Homemade opened in Dallas, employing mostly people with special needs, from servers to cashiers to managers. ‘Howdy,’ as Landis calls it, thrived as locals praised the store’s mission and liked the ice cream, too.

“And then the consequences of the novel coronavirus pandemic almost wiped out Landis’s creation.

“The store began operating at a loss in March, when stay-at-home orders decimated sales, and it continued that way through the hot summer. By September, Howdy faced the possibility of closure, so Landis closed the original location and moved to a nearby, cheaper spot.

“On Sept. 1, a supporter named Jaxie Alt set up a GoFundMe page to save the shop. Within six weeks, the page raised $100,000 and kept Howdy in business. As a bonus, Landis acquired a truck so that Howdy could serve ice cream more safely.

“The store is now open again and appears poised to become a national operation. Potential franchisers have popped up in Asheville, N.C., El Paso and Las Cruces, N.M. Landis and his vice president, Coleman Jones, who has Down syndrome, took a road trip last week for meetings in San Antonio about putting Howdy ice cream in the massive H-E-B grocery chain and in Austin about opening a Howdy store on campus at the University of Texas, Landis’s alma mater.

“Landis grew up in Bethesda, Md., with a mother who battled polio. … He said he felt moved to serve the special-needs community in part because of his ailing mother, in part because of inspiration from a former football coach and in part because of a calling from God.

“Landis spoke [admiringly] about the work of former Alabama coach Gene Stallings, who had a son with Down syndrome and became a vocal advocate for those with special needs.

“Landis’s store became one of Texas’s top employers of special-needs workers, and his hope was that Howdy’s success would change the way companies thought about hiring people with special needs. But when the pandemic sparked an unemployment crisis, Landis saw his cause pushed to the back of the line. …

“[He] was undeterred. He remains proud of five years in business with zero employee turnover and knows his employees with Down syndrome and autism have a place in the economy, in any industry. …

“ ‘[Most people] don’t want to do the same thing over and over and over and over again. And then God designs people with special needs, and they actually thrive on it,’ [he says].

In 2015, … Landis told Jones about possible hiring opportunities, and the next day Jones called Landis to follow up. Jones, now 24, started as a bus boy at one of Landis’s Texadelphia restaurants and said he ‘started at the bottom and worked up to the top’ — he’s now the vice president of Howdy Homemade.”

More at the Washington Post, here.

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