Dallas ice cream shop employs Scouts with Down syndrome

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Eagle Scouts Coleman Jones and Brandt Irvin of Dallas are happy, hard-working young men who just happen to have been born with Down syndrome. They’re also part of a fascinating enterprise: Howdy Homemade, a Dallas ice-cream and sandwich shop where all the employees are young special-needs people with autism, Down syndrome or other challenges.

Howdy Homemade is the brainchild of restaurateur Tom Landis, who came up with the idea after learning there are 240,000 special-needs people in North Texas alone. When he started Howdy Homemade, he brought Coleman, also a Special Olympics basketball player, from one of his other restaurants and made him vice president. Brandt joined the team later.

“Coleman takes his job more seriously than some lawyers I know,” Landis says. “He is so prepared. Everything Scouting teaches, he lives. We say Scouts taught him a work ethic, we taught him how to work and he taught us how to live.”

Landis describes Brandt as “a hard-working, super-competitive guy. When I walk in, Brandt gives me a fist-bump and says, ‘Look, we’ve done $1,000 in sales already.’ He wants to open his own restaurant, and I’m absolutely confident that he will. And he always says, ‘I’m going to sell more than Tom!’ ”

Coleman echoes that same confidence: “Knowing that it would take a long time to become an Eagle Scout — and then actually becoming one — has taught me to set high goals,” he says. “It will take a long time for me to own my own restaurant, but it will happen.”

Landis says Scouting helped both young men.

“They learned leadership, how to stand up and speak and take initiative,” he says. “They have a sense of honor and they stick with their word.”

Chris Tucker

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