While Brewability is a brewery that only employs individuals with disabilities, Pizzability is a pizzeria that does the same. Both Denver-based businesses were founded by Tiffany Fixter, a special needs teacher who saw a need for jobs and training for adults with disabilities.
Both Brewability and Pizzability provide job training and skill development that will translate into future job opportunities, all while providing you with a delicious cold brew and a slice, respectively.
Fixter spoke with DIVERSEability Magazine about her businesses and what inspired her to build them:
DIVERSEability Magazine (DM): How long have your owned Brewability and Pizzability?
Tiffany Fixter (TF): 3 years. I started Brewability in October 2016. Pizzability opened in December 2018.
DM: How did you get your start?
TF: I was an elementary Special Education Teacher in the inner city of Kansas City. I moved to Denver to be a director of a day program. It was there I discovered the severe lack of employment options for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I wanted to do something that was cool and different. So I did the most creative thing I could think of: an inclusive craft brewery.
DM: Why was it important to you to employ only individuals with disabilities?
TF: We employ adults of all abilities. It is important to showcase what everyone is capable of. As bartenders, my staff are front and center on the social scene. We offer a variety of supports (i.e.: visuals, checklists, etc…) in order to help them be as independent and successful at their job as possible.
DM: What’s one myth you would like to squelch about employing and/or working with individuals with disabilities?
TF: Every human has strengths and weaknesses. It is important to understand that focusing on these strengths and helping to develop them is subjective. Individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities are often viewed as a marginalized group of people, with less capability of a neurotypical person. This is not true. Do not put anyone in a box. See what they are capable of. You don’t know unless you try!
DM: How has your business been received? What successes have you enjoyed?
TF: Business has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Our first location was not ideal. It was three rows back in an industrial business park off of a major highway. It was truly amazing to see how many people would come to our little garage in the middle of nowhere just because they genuinely loved our staff. There were large party days, but in general the location was so off the beaten path, it was not financially sustainable. My favorite moments from this location were the fact that people chose us for their special moments. We had a proposal, a first birthday thought not to come, a 21st birthday where he drank a beer through his G-tube, a celebration of life for a dear friend’s father, and countless more!
The pizzeria was vastly different. It was located in Cherry Creek North, a high-end shopping and dining district. It was located on the garden level, which was not ideal. I thought the location was going to work out in our favor. Unfortunately, it was not a good fit for us either. We had trouble with people not wanting to eat food that people with disabilities had prepared, cooked and served, despite having an open kitchen concept, glove policy and visible accreditations from the health department. People said awful things directly to us or while passing by. It was extremely frustrating to be in such an affluent area that made us feel less than on a daily basis. When we lost our funding just after a year, we had no choice but to close and relocate to our new brewery location.
Brewability (and soon to be Pizzability) are now located 3445 S Broadway in Englewood, CO. It is a larger, more accessible location. Transportation is much easier as we are one block from the bus stop. We lowered a portion of the bar for people who use wheelchairs. We offer Color coded menus, Large-print menus, Dyslexie font menus and braille menus. There are lockers filled with adaptive games, noise canceling headphones, fidgets, sensory items and more. We are surrounded by independent, locally-owned small businesses. We are minutes from two major hospitals, Craig and Swedish, as well as the School for the Blind. We are loving our new neighborhood. I know there are many memories to be made. I hope you will join us in creating them!
DM: Do you have any special certifications or employ any programs that have helped you grow your business?
TF: I have dual undergraduate degrees in Elementary Education and Special Education from Northwest Missouri State University of Maryville, Missouri. I have a Master’s of Education with an emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders from the University of Kansas. I have experience teaching special education. More than any of my educational experience, it’s my life experience of seeing my parents work extremely hard. They are entrepreneurs and philanthropists. They have been instrumental in believing me and supporting my dreams. If it were not for them, I would not be writing this article. Thank you, mom and dad.
DM: What are your goals/vision for the future?
TF: My vision is to help others rethink how businesses could improve by incorporating accessibility beyond required ADA standards. I want to show the world that it is possible to have a truly accessible community. I’m starting with my own neighborhood of Englewood, Colorado. I hope you will follow our journey and I hope that other businesses will see the benefit of employing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as welcoming them in as customers.