Bakery cafe focuses on hiring people with disabilities

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Bakery cafe focuses on hiring people with disabilities


Seo Jin-wook, a barista, takes orders at the Happy Bakery & Caf?on the top floor of the Seoul Metropolitan Library. [KANG JUNG-HYUN]

On the top floor of the Seoul Metropolitan Library, Seo Jin-wook happily takes orders every day with a smile.

Seo is a barista at the library’s bakery cafe. He has also been diagnosed with a developmental disability.

“I have a lot of friends in a similar situation to mine, continuously changing jobs for simple tasks like assembly and packaging,” Seo said. “I would have been doing the same if I weren’t here.”

The cafe that hired him, the Happy Bakery & Café, is a collaborative project involving the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Purme Foundation, Soul Café & Bakery and SPC Group.

The Purme Foundation is a nonprofit representing people with disabilities, and Soul Café & Bakery is a company under the House of Aduck, a welfare center that offers job training for people with disabilities. SPC Group, the parent company of bakery chain Paris Baguette, provided specialized training.
The Happy Bakery & Café project started six years ago. At the time, Soul Café & Bakery’s disabled workers were producing bread for the Korean military and public schools, but they had bigger aspirations of running their own shop. In September 2012, SPC Group worked with the Purme Foundation to do just that.

The Purme Foundation was charged with hiring workers at the Happy Bakery & Café, while Soul Café & Bakery would produce the bread and cookies sold there. SPC Group offered financial support to decorate interiors, procure machinery and give instruction in baking and services.
The company provides 160 million won ($148,720) to open each store and an additional 50 million won to cover initial operating costs. Afterward, employees’ wages and other expenses are covered by the revenue they make.

There are currently seven Happy Bakery & Café locations in Seoul, including the one in the central library. Among a total 32 employees, 19 have disabilities. Work hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. but they can be flexibly adjusted according to each person’s disability. Those who work for more than a year are hired as a full-time employee under SPC Group.

The Happy Bakery & Café is considered a model case for private-public cooperation. Last month, public officials from Jakarta, Indonesia, visited a location to see how things are done.

“We’re seeing progress because it’s a collaboration model in which a company and a foundation each did what they can do best,” said Cho Mi-sook, an official from the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

“I’m really satisfied about not being under constant pressure to move jobs and set future plans with a stable job,” Seo, the barista, said. “The moment I feel most proud about my job is when I see a customer really enjoying my drink.”

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