By Shannon McFarlin News Director
Paris, Tenn.—The message of Sweet Jordan’s will soon be reaching even farther.
Sweet Jordan’s Ice Cream Shoppe and Coffee Co. is the only spot for miles around that employs staff with special needs and is one of the very few places in the local area where special needs employees can be placed by area employment agencies.
Sweet Jordan’s was the brainchild of Brad and Tommie St. John, whose son Jordan was born with Down Syndrome. Jordan is the “Sweet Jordan” for whom the Ice Cream Shoppe and Coffee Co. was named. Since opening two years ago, it has become a favorite spot for young and old in Paris and from miles around, with its comfy surroundings and its wide variety of ice cream, baked goods and coffees.
Sweet Jordan’s will soon expand to offer a laundry service, also manned by special needs teams.
Tommie St. John said the idea of expanding with an additional business came to her after a couple of bad days. “I had two people come in on a Monday and two more come in on a Tuesday and they all had special needs and they all needed jobs. I just had to tell them we had no more room at either the bakery or the coffee shop. But I was so upset about that. I just couldn’t stand turning them away. I literally sat in my house that Wednesday morning doing my devotional and the spirit of God said, ‘It doesn’t just have to be about cookies, ice cream and coffee.’”
St. John said, “I just thought, ‘That’s the answer!’ We can do other things with Sweet Jordan’s, too!”
Sweet Jordan’s already employs 30 people with special needs and with the laundry service expects to be able to employ between 12 and 15 more people.
She got the idea of opening a laundry service while watching the special needs team members folding the napkins and wash cloths used by Sweet Jordan’s. “They are so precise and are so proud of doing a good job and it’s already part of their training, I started thinking about expanding on that idea,” she said.
The laundry service business will be opening just a short walk in the same shopping mall where Sweet Jordan’s is located at 849 Volunteer Dr. in Paris.
A phone call to building owner Wyatt Owens led her to believe further that she was on the right track. “I asked Wyatt whether he had any more space (in the shopping mall) and he said, ‘Suite 5 is open right now’. I walked down to Suite 5 and it’s just perfect for what we need. It couldn’t be more perfect. It hasn’t needed much remodeling at all.”
The business will be equipped with four washers and eight dryers. A reception area in the front will welcome customers and St. John has already mapped out how the business will operate. She said special needs team members already work about four-hour shifts two or three days a week and that will continue with the new business.
“I really do believe that God is working through Sweet Jordan’s”, St. John said. As word has gotten around, “We’ve already gotten so many applications from people wanting to work for the laundry service. This community has really embraced what we’re doing here. If more people would just realize how awesome they are as workers they would be hired more. We’re just trying to get that word out so more people understand that. They have so much to offer if they’re just given the opportunity.”
St. John said when she posted on Facebook, asking for public feedback on the idea of a laundry service at Sweet Jordan’s, “198,000 people were reached in that first 48 hours. That shows you how much people care.” In addition to plenty of feedback from families with special needs, there also has been positive feedback from people eager for a laundry service in Paris, she said.
People with special needs children and grandchildren come to Sweet Jordan’s from all over the country. “We’ve had people drive all the way from Virginia, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Texas. They are just amazed at what they see here and it gives them hope,” she said.
Sweet Jordan’s is planning to expand to other locations, namely Jackson and Union City, and is working with organizations at both cities on it. “I believe there will be other Sweet Jordan’s in other locations. It’s just a matter of God’s timing, not ours,” she said.
They are hoping the laundry business will be open by the third week of October, she said.