On February 20th, 2020, Bob Parks and his wife, Tracey, opened a deli shop on 44 Worcester Drive in Falling Waters. The restaurant’s main purpose is to showcase the talents of those with special needs, such as Park’s daughter, Jordyn, who the restaurant is named after, and give special needs employees value within in the community. Parks’ dream of opening his own restaurant started at a young age.
“I had a lemonade stand when I was a teen. It was a failure but I learned I love this type of business. When I was 15 I became a dishwasher and bus boy at a restaurant. After I graduated I joined the military but when I got out, I went back to the restaurant business. I started as an assistant manger and ended up becoming a district manager. After 20 years in the restaurant business, I was ready and had the knowledge to open up my own business,” Parks said.
He said that when he first met his wife, Tracey, he told her that he wanted to open his own restaurant one day. They never thought it would be for their own daughter and others like her though. Although, Bob always had the idea at the back of his mind to open a restaurant it began to take shape when he began looking towards Jordyn’s future. After Jordyn, who attends Spring Mills High School, graduates, what will she do then? He and his wife had to ask themselves. He searched the area for employment opportunities for those with special needs and was disappointed to find virtually none. So he decided to start his own.
When asked why open a deli out of all kinds of foods to serve, Parks said,”I grew up 15 to 20 minutes away from Baltimore and where I grew up there was a sandwich shop on every corner. That’s where we would go after sports or to hangout. Delis feel like home to me. They serve my comfort food. I want people in the community to feel like Jordyn’s is a home to them. I want that type of atmosphere. Besides employing special needs individuals, I hope to have great food and great customer service.”
“Right now, half of our employees are special needs. But I want to make the numbers even higher,” Parks said. “I also hope to inspire other businesses to hire special needs workers.”
Opening Jordyn’s did not come without struggles though. There was a leap of faith, Parks and his wife, had to take. Money was an issue and opening a business takes lots of it. In addition, right when Jordyn’s Deli’s business was picking up and spreading by word of mouth, COVID-19 struck. It brought their sales down by 70% and crushed small businesses all alike around the area. Despite everything, Jordyn’s Deli, as a new restaurant with barely a foundation, has pushed through.
Park’s restaurant has benefited the community greatly, especially the barely recognized and often forgotten special needs individuals within it. Parks says he’s seen his special needs employees grow confidence and have a new sense of value. He pays them the same as other employees and expects nothing less of them.
“I teach education to them. Not like reading and writing but restaurant education- customer service, how to sanitize, how to cook. Skills they can even take outside of the restaurant too,” Parks said. “We have an employee with special needs named Ryan. When he first started working here he worked as a greeter. He needed a job coach to work with him. To direct him and follow up with him. Now he is independent in his duties. He needs no one to guide him. He’s even taken on new tasks, such as bringing food to tables.”
Jordyn’s Deli not only serves mouth-watering food that’s home-cooked and fresh but it makes a huge positive impact in people’s lives. Bob said this was his favorite job he’s ever had.
When asked why he said,”Because I’m not working for money. I’m working for my daughter’s future.”