KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For two and a half years Emmy's Frozen Yogurt Shop in Knoxville greeted customers with smiles and positivity. If that wasn't enough, then the cherry on top was that Emmy's was an all-inclusive business model.
"We opened the shop to provide work opportunities for people with disabilities," said Jodie McIntyre, the owner of Emmy's. "Emmy is my son, he has Autism. He's the most amazing person I know."
McIntyre explained the idea behind the business operation. Every task had a specific formula, picture, or method attached to it. Then, those formulas never changed.
Mcintyre had a binder filled with a step-by-step on how to clean the yogurt machines. It had pictures on each page and a checklist to make sure each item got completed.
"We wanted to have a safe place for people who maybe need a little extra support to come get some work skills and move on to another job opportunity," McIntyre said.
McIntyre felt the Knoxville community really open up to the concept of an all-inclusive business model.
"I feel like everybody's heart kind of opened up when they walked in here, and just accepted people with differing abilities," McIntyre said.
Everyone was welcome, both customers and employees.
"I was the happiest when parents would come in and say... We went home and had a conversation with our kids about people with different abilities, and that it's okay. It's just life and it's part of life. And you gave us that platform to be able to have that conversation with our kids. However old they are," McIntyre said.
Now that door is closing. Thursday, September 23, was the last day.
"We're ready to go and move on as a family... And, yeah... COVID was not helpful," McIntyre said.
However, she doesn't want the shop's closure to affect the community's progress toward inclusiveness.
"We're hoping that it kind of continues even though we're closing. We're hoping that kind of awareness continues here in Knoxville because I really think our scruffy little city has a heart for it," McIntyre said.
A sign on the outside of the frozen yogurt shop reads "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." That is exactly what the Mcintyre family is doing.
Although the shop is closing, the Emmy brand is not going anywhere. The family plans to transition into a different business to help people across the spectrum of ability learn job readiness skills.
However, before that, they are taking a well-deserved break.