4 years ago

Alabama-based Taziki’s brings HOPE to adults and students with special needs

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Continues Expansion Nationwide with 60 Stores and Growing

When you can combine good food with a positive environment, lives can be changed. Taziki’s Mediterranean Café has created a culture of inclusivity by working with and hiring students and young adults with special needs. The Birmingham-based company is helping those that normally get overlooked across the country.

ORIGINALITY IS OUR NATIONALITY

Keith Richards (no, not that Keith Richards) began his culinary career at a K-Mart in Ensley, Alabama cooking chicken and serving sweet tea. It wasn’t long before that job blossomed into a career that eventually found him as the café manager at the award-winning Bottega Café in Birmingham.

In 1997, Richards and his wife Amy took a trip to Greece and came home inspired by the cuisine and culture they encountered. The idea of creating a place to share their love of Mediterranean food with others took hold and couldn’t be undone. Guided by the memory of the food they encountered on their trip and some family recipes, Keith and Amy began developing what would become Taziki’s signature menu of freshly grilled meats, original sauces, and healthy side dishes. The first Taziki’s Mediterranean Café opened in 1998 on Highway 280 in Birmingham and welcomed 76 customers on its first day.

Since that first location on Highway 280, Taziki’s has opened 60 restaurants in 15 states. Richards hopes to open an additional 8 restaurants by the end of 2016, with 10 more that are in the development stage. Most recently, Taziki’s has expanded south with restaurants opening in Daphne, AL, Panama City, FL and Tallahassee, FL. With more than 1,300 employees nationwide, the company made more than $63 million in total retail sales last year, and more and more stores continue to have record weeks. Along with their signature cuisine, every Taziki’s location offers take-out and catering for large or small events.

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The growth of Taziki’s has been staggering, thanks to a recent national trend in eating healthy. Hummus has particularly seen a resurgence across the country, and Taziki’s hummus sales have exploded in response. In 2009, Taziki’s sold 31,014 servings of hummus. Just five years later, that number jumped to 275,572 servings.

Since its founding, Taziki’s has emerged as a leader in the restaurant community, not just in Alabama, but nationwide. The restaurant was named one of the nation’s top franchises by the Franchise Business Review in 2014 and 2015 and the 17 th fastest growing franchise in Restaurant Business magazine’s “The Future 50” in 2015. Taziki’s is also the first national franchise to achieve REAL (Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership) Certification, the United States Healthful Food Council’s emerging national standard for foodservice nutrition and sustainability, and as of last year, it is the largest chain restaurant to complete this certification process.

HOPE

Richards recognizes that with great success comes great responsibility, so giving back to the community has become a priority for Taziki’s. The company has taken a particular interest in working with students and young adults with disabilities.

“God has blessed me. You’ve just got to give back. That’s the way you’ve got to work it,” Richards said.

One of the signature programs of Taziki’s is HOPE – Herbs Offering Personal Enrichment. This program, founded by Richards in partnership with the Shelby County School system, empowers and inspires students with special needs to learn how to grow, harvest, and sell fresh herbs, and gives them experience in getting paid for their work. The herbs harvested by the program are used at many Taziki’s locations.

HOPE may have started in Shelby County, but “HOPE gardens” are quickly growing across the U.S. The program recently expanded to Nashville, Tennessee and partnered with Fairview High School’s special education program and agriculture teacher. The initiative is also expanding to Arkansas this year.

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Taziki’s also hires students and young adults with special needs to work in their restaurants. Many of these employees complete their work long before customers arrive. Their daily duties often include cleaning the restaurant, loading ice machines, rolling silverware in napkins, and setting up the restaurant for the day’s business. Richards says these employees are just as good as any other employee, if not better.

“What’s remarkable about the students and young adults we have working for us is – they’re consistently doing the same thing and it’s perfect the same way,” he said.

Richards has received a number of honors through his dedication to working with employees with special needs. In 2014, Richards received the Champion Award from Down Syndrome Alabama, and the National Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) presented him the Large Employer Award in 2015, which recognizes employers who demonstrate an “outstanding commitment to hiring, and fully integrating individuals with disabilities into their workforce. “

But even more importantly, the students and adults working for Richards gain self-worth and professional value. The HOPE students running the herb gardens learn skills they can use in real jobs after they graduate, from nurturing plants to organization, and even how to earn a paycheck. And the Taziki’s employees learn responsibility, how to work with others, and that their work has value.

Keith Richards has made Taziki’s stand out from the ever-growing crowd of restaurants across the nation. The secret to Taziki’s success is more than just good food (although that certainly doesn’t hurt) – it’s about making every customer and employee feel valued, respected, and making them feel like family.

Richards says it best like this:

“Only with great food and by exceeding the expectations of everyone who comes through our door can we create the relationships that make us successful.”

4 hours ago

Alabama Power sends hundreds of linemen, support personnel to assist after Tropical Storm Isaias hammered East Coast

Tropical Storm Isaias hit the eastern coast of the United States hard this week, leaving millions of Americans without power while producing high winds, heavy rain and tornadoes.

In the wake of the storm’s wrath, Alabama Power Company on Wednesday morning sent 133 lineworkers and 94 support personnel to New Jersey to assist utility FirstEnergy in its storm response.

A release from the company outlined that Alabama Power upon arrival will support FirstEnergy subsidiary Jersey Central Power and Light, which serves 1.1 million customers in the central and northern parts of the Garden State.

In addition to directly supporting FirstEnergy, Alabama Power advised that it released more than 325 contract lineworkers to assist in storm restoration at various other utilities along the East Coast.

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“Our crews are prepped and ready to offer assistance in the restoration efforts following Tropical Storm Isaias,” stated Kristie Barton, Alabama Power Company’s power delivery services general manager.

“As soon as it is safe to do so, which includes observing all of our COVID-19 safe practices protocol, we’ll be working to restore power as quickly as possible,” she continued.

The company’s help was reportedly coordinated through the mutual assistance program of the Southeastern Electric Exchange, a trade association comprised of several member utilities.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

Ivey named to leadership of National Governors Association

The National Governors Association (NGA) on Wednesday announced its new executive committee for 2020-2021, with Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) becoming chair of the association that represents the 55 leaders of all American states and territories.

Members of the executive committee were elected during the NGA summer meeting, which was held in a virtual format this year.

Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) was one of the governors elected to the nine-member executive committee.

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“I’m honored to have been elected to serve on the [NGA] Executive Committee for 2020-21,” Ivey said in a Wednesday tweet. “I look forward to working with my fellow governors to develop initiatives & policies to support our country now & in the future.”

The NGA recently highlighted Alabama’s workforce development efforts under the Ivey administration as a model for other states to emulate.

Ivey assumed the governor’s office on April 10, 2017. In November 2018, she was elected to her first full term as Alabama’s chief executive. That term will expire in January 2023. Ivey could seek reelection in 2022.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

Mo Brooks: Democrats are banking on creating more moochers in 2020

The latest stimulus bill in Congress is tied up for many reasons, but a major sticking point appears to be the continuation of a $600 a week unemployment booster on top of what states already pay in benefits.

With the current impasse, there is currently no bonus to be given to those who are unemployed.

This is creating a battle between those who want to keep the bonus payment going for the foreseeable future and those who believe that the high payment is keeping people from vigorously re-entering the job market.

The stalemate in Washington, D.C. will eventually break. Some form of sweetener will be included, and the battle for stimulus will move on to the next bill.

U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) views this battle as part of the larger ideological battle in the United States.

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Brooks appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” on Wednesday and referred to the Democratic Party as “the moocher party.” He said he believes this disconnect all started in the 1960s when Democrats embraced the idea of the “Great Society.”

Brooks opined, “Democrats have discovered that’s a huge voting block that they get in elections, so one way to win an election is to turn more independent, self-reliant voters into moochers.”

The congressman from Huntsville believes this is nothing new and noted how political it all is.

“Democrats perceive that that’s going to help them tremendously in the 2020 elections just a few months from now,” he advised.

My takeaway:

Brooks, of course, is right.

The argument from the media and their Democrats is always going to be some version of: “We want to give you [this] and they don’t because they want you to die.”

Free healthcare, free childcare, free college education, and it never stops.

Stopping any of this is the equivalent of kicking a baby in the face and taking its food.

Democrats have bought into this idea for years, and in the time of rampant unemployment and a pandemic, they will kick their grievance politics into full gear to gain new power.

The House, Senate and presidency are at risk this year. Republicans can give in and extend the $600 unemployment benefit (they will), and Democrats will just move to the next free item.

In 2020, this strategy might work.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

8 hours ago

Dollar General opens 450,000 square foot distribution center in Montgomery

Budget shopping chain Dollar General on Wednesday announced the opening of its large, new cold storage distribution center in Montgomery.

The 450,000 square foot facility is the product of a $26 million investment for the company and will support around 65 new jobs in the River Region.

The Montgomery facility is cold storage, meaning it is designed to store goods that must be kept chilled like milk and deli products.

“Welcome to Montgomery Dollar General, thank you for investing in our state and in our people,” said Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday during a digital event celebrating the facility being opened.

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“We are incredibly grateful for the tremendous support from both state and local officials who helped make this project happen,” remarked Rod West, Dollar General’s vice president of perishables growth and development.

The low-cost retailer opened its first store in Alabama in 1965 and now has around 800 retail locations in the Yellowhammer State.

“Dollar General is a trusted company with a long history in Alabama,” said Elton Dean, Montgomery County Commission chairman, in a statement on Monday.

“The River Region has a lot to offer, and we are thrilled that this esteemed organization, that does business across the country, recognizes that,” Dean added.

Dollar General also has a traditional distribution center in Bessemer and claims to employ approximately 8,100 Alabamians in total.

Montgomery’s new distribution center is located on Mobile Highway, around 15 minutes southwest of downtown.

“We welcome Dollar General and look forward to years of partnership and progress to come,” commented Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed on Wednesday,

The company says it will support around 1,500 stores in surrounding areas and help spur the “DG Fresh” initiative “which is a strategic multi-phased shift to self-distribution of frozen and refrigerated goods such as dairy, deli and frozen products” according to a release.

“We are confident that Dollar General recognized our strong workforce and business-friendly environment when choosing a location for this facility. We are excited to welcome Dollar General and countless companies to come, to grow in Montgomery,” concluded Arthur DuCote, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce chairman.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

8 hours ago

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Tommy Tuberville for U.S. Senate

The Alabama Forestry Association (AFA) on Wednesday announced its endorsement of Republican nominee Tommy Tuberville in the Yellowhammer State’s 2020 U.S. Senate race.

Tuberville, after defeating former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in last month’s GOP primary runoff, is set to face U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November’s general election. The AFA had endorsed Sessions in the runoff contest.

In a statement, AFA executive vice president Chris Isaacson said, “We are proud to endorse Tommy Tuberville in the United States Senate race. He is a conservative with an impressive list of accomplishments, and we know that he will continue that record in his role as U.S. Senator.”

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“Tommy knows that decisions made in Washington impact families and businesses and will be an effective voice for the people of Alabama,” he concluded.

This comes as another major endorsement for Tuberville from the agribusiness community. The Alabama Farmers Federation endorsed the former Auburn University football coach last year and has been credited as being integral along his path to securing the Republican nomination.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association. The AFA is an excellent organization that stands for pro-business policies. Protecting Alabama industry is a key to our state’s success,” Tuberville stated.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn