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Ice cream parlor with special-needs workers hopes to expand
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Ice cream parlor with special-needs workers hopes to expand

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Ice cream parlor with special-needs workers hopes to expand

Christina Cox makes an ice cream cone for a customer at Special Scoops, Wednesday, May 26, 2021 in downtown Hastings, Neb. Special Scoops Ice Cream Parlor will look to expand its operational footprint by going mobile after changing its business designation to nonprofit effective May 1.

Don't try taking ice cream away from this baby.

HASTINGS — The “happy place” in Hastings is shaking things up.

Special Scoops Ice Cream Parlor will look to expand its operational footprint by going mobile after it changed its business designation to nonprofit effective May 1.

With the change in status, owners Donna and Bryan Bieck of Trumbull hope to acquire additional funding from donations and grants that will enable them to pursue the addition of a catering truck to complement their storefront operation at 237 N. St. Joseph Ave.

Opened in September 2019, the unique business employs only special-needs employees — the only business between Lincoln and Denver to do so.

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Ranging in age from 16 to 70, the 15 employees carry out what duties they are able to perform under the watchful eye of the Biecks, who train and supervise them.

Both Donna and Bryan are retirees with disabilities of their own, and neither owner receives any sort of compensation for covering the seven-day-per-week work schedule, save the satisfaction of giving those like their grandson, Aaron — who is autistic — a workplace where they feel welcomed and valued.

As head of delegation for school-aged Special Olympics activities in Hastings, Donna said she understands the hardships special-needs individuals face when attempting to find gainful employment. With the addition of Special Scoops to the Hastings community, she extends to them a place to work that meets a genuine need in the community rather than doing busywork for a paycheck.

“They deserve a place where they can feel confidence in the service they are providing,” she said. “I know there are not many places that are willing to hire special-needs individuals. It thrills them to no end that they can provide a service that people really want to have. I mean, who doesn’t love ice cream?”

While there are certainly special challenges associated with special-needs employees, Donna said it mostly comes down to identifying which duties they are able to accomplish.

“You have to keep an eye on some of them,” she said. “Some have a hard time scooping, so we try to find things that are easier for them. Everybody takes turns doing the tables and general cleaning.

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“When we first opened, customers started calling us the happy place, because they said if you weren’t happy when you came in you would be when you left. They (employees) are more than willing to serve and are so very proud of the job they do.”

Donna recalls fondly how ice cream parlors were considered destination locations when she raised her family here decades ago. Apparently, she’s not the only one with a heart for those with special needs and fondness for a cherry on top.

“In May of 2019 when I started this whole thing, I asked on the ’You know you’re from Hastings” (Facebook) page, ‘What would you think if I were to open an ice cream parlor and only employ special-needs individuals?’ ” she said. “I had 35 positive responses in the first 15 minutes. That told me this was something Hastings would help support.”

With its newly acquired nonprofit status, the Biecks hope to find a manger to assist them and their grown daughter, Deborah Bieck, with keeping the family business running smoothly going forward. They see Special Scoops as something bigger than themselves — something they hope will continue to thrive long after they are gone.

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“Being nonprofit will help us make sure this shop is here not only for our special needs employees, but for the whole community,” Donna said. “Our employees are ready to serve the public. This community has been awesome to us.”

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