Blake Satterfield is proud to open the door and greet guests at Special Kneads and Treats on the Lawrenceville downtown square. He shows guests to a table and to the gourmet cupcakes on display behind the bakery counter.

Blake has Down syndrome and wouldn’t be the first person many businesses would put at their front door. But Blake and others with special needs are the reason why Special Kneads and Treats opened four weeks ago.

“From his first day here, he has felt included and productive,” said Blake’s mother, Pat Satterfield. “It’s a wonderful thing for our guys to give back to the community and feel accepted and useful. Once they get the hang of things, when they see a need, they get things done and make people feel welcome.”

Special Kneads and Treats at 132 E. Crogan St. is a nonprofit bakery that provides job skills training to special needs adults. It was opened by Tempa Kohler and her husband, Michael, when they purchased the former Sweets on the Square.

“We prayed for only provisions and a building and God gave us a bakery with ovens, freezers and an established client base,” Tempa Kohler said. “And now we’re building our own client base. It’s awesome and definitely a God thing.”

The Kohlers opened the bakery to help their son Bradley, 24, who was diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome when he was 7 years old. Fragile X Syndrome is a genetic chromosome disorder that causes mild to severe mental impairment.

“Kids with special needs can stay in the Gwinnett School system until they are 22 years old and then they age out,” said Kohler. “We’re here to employ special needs adults and give them a place to come and work and hopefully learn a skill set that they can take to another location.”

Kohler is operating the bakery with one employee and five special needs adults who often have family members who stay and help with baking duties. The special needs adults have opened the door and greeted guests, washed dishes, cleaned tables, swept the floor and helped with lettering on cupcake wrappers denoting when they were made. They also help in the kitchen when adequate supervision is in place.

“Adults with special needs are loyal,” Kohler noted. “They’ll be the first to show up and if you show them a job, they will do it and do it well.”

Special Kneads is open on Mondays from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., Wednesdays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The main draw is the gourmet cupcakes in flavors that rotate each month. Flavors now featured include carrot, red velvet, chocolate bacon caramel, peanut butter, Oreo, Snickers and salted caramel macchiato. Another favorite is “choc corn” which is chocolate-flavored puffed corn. They also bake wedding and birthday cakes, cheesecakes, biscotti, baklava and chicken salad croissants. They have sent out large orders to church functions but have not yet considered catering because of a backlog of orders in their first few weeks of operation.

The Kohlers are members of the Graystone Church on Azora Road and Michael Kohler served as assistant baseball commissioner of Baycreek Park which serves people with special needs and helps some prepare for the Special Olympics. Tempa Kohler said she and her husband know more than 250 local families with special needs children and they support each other in efforts to help those with special needs. As a result, Special Kneads and Treats has been swamped with as much business as they can possibly handle.

“We’ve had so much business that I would like to ask the landlord what it would take to break down the wall and expand into the space next door,” said Kohler. “We would love to put between 25 to 50 special needs adults to work. But right now, our dreams outweigh our wallet. But God is rich and we act out of Him.”

The bakery is also garnering birthday cake orders from gift cards supplied to the Lawrenceville and Snellville Food Co-ops. Needy families who bring in gift cards from the co-ops are given a 9 by 13 inch chocolate or vanilla birthday cake decorated for the birthday recipient.

“Everyone needs a birthday cake,” Kohler said. “Ever since I was 13 years old I’ve wanted to operate a bakery and when this opportunity came about I said, ‘I can do this.’”

Now the Kohlers are riding a wave of new business and hope to expand someday into other enterprises to help adults with special needs. Future considerations are to operate a thrift store, an event hall or a soup kitchen to feed the homeless.

“The need is so great in the special needs community and you wouldn’t know that unless you are the parent of a special needs child because you haven’t lived it,” Kohler said. “Everyone needs to be ‘kneaded.’ They need a place to go instead of being left at home in front of a TV.”

More information on Special Kneads and Treats Inc. and their products are available at www.specialkneadsandtreats.com.

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