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New Ownership, Same Challah

Bassie Shemtov, Friendship Circle’s Executive Director, chats about Friendship Circle’s decision to purchase Dakota Bread Company.

In the April issue of West Bloomfield Lifestyle, we featured Friendship Circle, specifically the Farber Soul Center at 5586 Drake Road in West Bloomfield. Further extending its programming for adults with special needs, Friendship Circle purchased Dakota Bread Company, located at 6879 Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield, to create even more career opportunities for this population. 

In December, we had the opportunity to speak with Friendship Circle’s Executive Director Bassie Shemtov about Friendship Circle’s decision to purchase the bakery and what the community can expect when they visit Dakota.

EARLIER THIS YEAR, YOU SHARED WITH ME THAT FARBER SOUL CENTER EXTENDS FRIENDSHIP CIRCLE’S PROGRAMMING INTO THE LIVES OF ADULTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS THROUGH THE CULINARY, DIGITAL AND TRADITIONAL ARTS. SO, WHY A BAKERY, TOO? Our Soul Cafe and Soul Cafe Training Program are great, but they really cut out a certain level of ability. Bakeries tend to require a lot of repetitive tasks. Once they have it down, individuals with special needs are happy to do something over and over and can typically stay super focused while doing it. Also, they’d have the option to not be right in front of the customers, and they won’t feel as rushed. The Soul Cafe baristas, for example, have a lot of pressure on them, so the bakery is a great space to be able to give opportunities to people with special needs. 

THE BAKERY’S TRAINING PROGRAM FOR ADULTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS TEACHES THEM LIFE SKILLS, INCLUDING TIME MANAGEMENT, ORGANIZATION, CUSTOMER SERVICE AND MORE, SO THAT THEY CAN BECOME EMPLOYEES IN THE FUTURE. HOW IS THE TRAINING GOING SO FAR? So far, especially with Covid, we’ve been testing out the training program with a handful of people. We are constantly checking in with ourselves: how are we progressing? Do we have enough visuals? Is the environment calm enough with them? Hopefully in a few months we’ll be able to run more pilots. 

WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THE TRAINING PROGRAM? First, we want to give opportunities to (hopefully many) adults with special needs. We want them to have a place where they’re excited to come to, where they can be productive at and where they’re proud to call home. Second, we want the public to reap the benefits of being with adults who have special needs. You become a better person when you learn, and the program allows all people to be a part of this world now. 

SO, WHY DAKOTA BREAD COMPANY SPECIFICALLY? Ron Hodess, one of our board members who has two adults with special needs, was pushing us to do a bakery for a while. Howard Schwartz of Howard Schwartz Commercial Real Estate asked us why we were looking into starting a bakery from scratch when we could take over the best bakery: Dakota Bread Company. It turned out that the owners of Dakota were wanting to retire. Definitely a divine providence. Everything worked to what we dreamt would be possible. 

I KNOW THE WELL-KNOWN CHALLAH BREAD RECIPE HASN’T CHANGED, BUT WHAT CAN THE COMMUNITY EXPECT TO BE DIFFERENT? Well, first of all, everything is now Kosher. We also feel we’ve changed it into more of a community bakery/family space. We decided to set up a display of Soul Studio’s art that we’ve paired with our baked goods, too.

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