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Hanover store makes progress in mission to help special-needs employees

Written by Jennifer Wentz, The Evening Sun | Jul 25, 2015 6:30 AM
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Photo by Clare Becker, Evening Sun

About It All owner Tony Myers works with volunteer Sophie Cool, of East Berlin, on a custom design on Tuesday at his Baltimore Street shop.

(Hanover) -- Tony Myers opened his custom apparel shop in Hanover with a dream of employing adults with special needs.

One year later, the store, About It All, is fulfilling that mission. Myers hired Ryan Garrett, a college graduate with intellectual disabilities, in May and created a new production area in the once-empty space next to his Baltimore Street store in early July.

The store has met many of the goals Myers set a year ago when he dumped his savings into renting the storefront, he said, but he still sees room to grow.

Myers opened the shop in June 2014, using his background working with people on the autism spectrum to provide volunteer opportunities for clients at Focus Behavioral Health in Hanover. Those volunteers helped make the custom apparel and, in the process, learned social skills and other abilities necessary to join the workforce.

But Myers wanted to do more. He wanted to provide that employment himself. Many people with intellectual disabilities have the skills to contribute to a workplace, he said, and they want the opportunity to showcase them. Employers, though, are often hesitant to hire them.

He spent a year building up funds, helped largely by the expansion of a portion of his shop that sells vaping supplies. Finally, in May, he could put Garrett -- his first employee -- on the payroll.

Garrett, a Hanover native, attended a learning support college in Johnstown. When he came back home, though, he said he had trouble finding an employer willing to work with his intellectual disabilities.

"It always seems like when I got a step ahead, I got a step back," he recalled Tuesday as he traced a design for a Hanover Dutch Festival shirt at About It All. "It was excuse after excuse."

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Photo by Clare Becker, Evening Sun

About It All employee Ryan Garrett examines his work on an intricate design in the production room on Tuesday. Having Garrett on the payroll and the production room space are just two of advances the business has been able to make in a little over a year since its inception.

Then a friend told him about Myers' store, where he could build experience to put on his resume. He started working as a volunteer and loved it immediately, he said.

Myers was finally able to put him on the payroll in May. That day just happened to be Garrett's birthday.

"It was kind of a birthday dream come true," Garrett said with a smile.

Putting someone on payroll is a step in the right direction, Myers said, but he still has much he wants to accomplish. He wants to hire more employees, but to do that, he needs to grow the custom apparel end of his business.

That part is now being funded by vape supply sales, he said. Although he believes in those products -- they helped him and some of his clients quit smoking, he said -- his real dream lies in custom apparel because special needs employees can easily help cut out designs, operate the heat press or sort inventory.

Even on a volunteer basis, people with special needs benefit from this kind of work, said Cassey Constantine, an employee with Focus Behavioral Health.

Constantine brings Focus client Sophie Cool to the shop for several hours each week to help her build social and organizational skills. Since Cool started volunteering in January, Constantine said, she has grown considerably.

Cool, who was working on a custom sticker for an auto club Tuesday, agreed, saying she has learned how to stay organized and record inventory.

Myers' hope is that a big company, like one of Hanover's snack food distributors, will eventually see his mission and want to help. Until then, though, he, Garrett and the store's volunteers will continue making shirts for smaller groups like the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce and Friends of Amazing Kids.

"God's been making a way," Myers said.

At a glance

What: About It All

Where: 16 1/2 Baltimore St., Hanover

Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday

Contact: 717-965-1739 or tony@aboutitallpa.com

More: aboutitallpa.com or www.facebook.com/aboutitallpa

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Photo by Clare Becker, Evening Sun

About It All owner Tony Myers goes over an inventory sheet with a vendor at his Baltimore Street store Tuesday. Myers said the wall behind the counter has been painted with the autism support symbol-- colorful interlocking puzzle pieces -- as a way to show what the foundation of his business is about.

Also of interest

Read more business news from the Hanover-Adams area

Read more news from downtown Hanover

Hanover church plans packing party for Christmas in July


This article comes to us through a partnership between the Evening Sun and WITF. 

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