FALLS CHURCH, Va. (WDVM) — Jake’s Ice Cream shop provides sweet job opportunities to those with disabilities.
The bright purple shop is filled with smiling employees, yelling, “Welcome to Jake’s!” as soon as a customer enters the store. Hot cocoa bombs, cake pops and dairy-free ice cream alternatives line the store’s shelves.
Behind all the bright colors and hard work are Jake’s employees — who, as owner Robin Rinearson says, are all “differently-Abled.”
Rinearson named the shop after her 29-year-old nephew Jake, who has cerebral palsy. Jake was laid off from his company during the pandemic due to his disability.
“It really aggravated me because Jake, like many other people who are differently-abled, don’t have the social life. They don’t have the interactions,” said Rinearson.
Taking matters into her own hands, she created a business where those with disabilities won’t be turned away, employing many of her former patients from her career working in developmental optometry.
“Many of them said, ‘Pick my kid! Pick my kid! Would you hire my child?’ And I said, ‘Absolutley.'”
Rinearson says the shop could operate “with just two managers and 6 employees,” but she doesn’t turn anyone away, with a staff of 30 workers, each with 20 hour shifts per week.
Employees build their resumes, learn customer service skills, and form unbreakable bonds with co-workers. But, most importantly, those who work at Jake’s find their purpose in having a place to go every day.
“We come home at the end of the day and are like, ‘OK. I’ve done something with my life.’ That gives me a sense of purpose and great sense of satisfaction,” said Andrew Reese, employee.
Tim Walker, another employee at Jake’s, says Robin is a great mentor and loves coming to work.
“It’s a great work environment. Everyone’s like a family,” said Walker.
It’s a labor of love — Rinearson funds the store entirely out of her pocket, but she says you can’t put a price on the joy Jake’s brings to their employees.
“They have a social life, they have goals, and they have jobs. If you talk to some of them, they would tell you they want to get their apartment,” said Rinearson. “I want them to be successful. I want them to be accepted. There’s no reason why not.”
Learn more about Jake’s Ice Cream at their website.