SOUTH Euclid -- We all know how hard it has been for many people to find a job this year, and it has been even harder for people who have some kind of disability.
But there is hope this holiday season because of a first-of-its-kind idea to put handicapped people to work. An idea to create opportunities is working out so well that they are expanding.
When they cut the ribbon to officially open the Just-A-Buck store at 4507 Mayfield Road in South Euclid, it marked the next step in a real success story.
Just-A-Buck South Euclid hours, phone number, map
Just-A-Buck Parma hours, phone number, map
Just-A-Buck, a nationally franchised dollar store chain, now has a second local store owned and operated by people who have disabilities.
"You won't find a cleaner, better maintained, or better stocked store anywhere," says Dr. Terry Ryan, Superintendent of the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities. "They take pride in their work."
The 15 full-time employees are clients of the County Board, and work through a non-profit partner company called SAW Incorporated, which provides supervisors and trainers.
"We've got terrific staff and bosses here," beams Jeremy Greene, one of the new employees, who along with his co-workers actually owns a "piece of the action," because SAW Inc. owns and operates the franchise.
With unemployment among people who have disabilities at 50 percent, agencies who serve them must be creative and innovative in not only finding jobs for them, but creating real jobs.
Another of those jobs belongs to Brittany Weiss, busy making sure items are properly placed and customers get through the check out line quickly and with courtesy.
"What I do here is re-stock everything," Brittany explained to WKYC on the day of Just-A-Buck's grand opening. "I also do the register. My favorite part is the register. I like to do the register."
A lot of research went into the decision to get into the dollar store business in the first place. And part of what they learned is that one of every three American families shops at a dollar store at least once a month.
That's why the Parma Just-A-Buck store, which opened in 2009, has been such a success. They've sold over a million items, and business goes up every quarter.
That first store has given the dignity of full-time work to people like Beth Spock, so she can live as she chooses, as independently as possible.
"Mostly I go out to see movies or out to dinner, or stay home with my mom and dad," is how Beth describes her time away from the store. "Or I work at church helping little kids."
The county had been looking for an East Side location for its new, 7,000-square-foot store, and South Euclid did what they could to bring it to their city.
"Our whole mission in our city here is 'Welcome Home,'" says South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo. "This is a place where people live, work, and play, and that's what we're seeing here with the new Just-A-Buck store."
The new store's only been open a few weeks, but word is traveling fast. Simone Nelson was among the first bargain hunters who couldn't resist the prices.
"I just love the store because it's beautiful and the items are nice," she said. "And who doesn't like to buy things for a dollar."
Plans are already being made to open more Just-A-Bucks throughout Northeast Ohio according to Superintendent Ryan. "We are already looking at potential locations in several other cities."