Carmel business baking tasty treats with employees on the autism spectrum

Published:
Updated:

CARMEL, Ind. (WTHR) - On West Main Street in Carmel's Arts and Design district, No Label at the Table Food Company is now open every day except Monday.

The bakery offers tasty treats and jobs for people with autism.

Founder Shelly Henley’s desire for her son to become a productive, working adult became a business that's baking with a purpose.

“No Label at the Table is a gluten- and dairy-free company that employs people with autism,” explained Chef Hannah Johnson while stirring chocolate frosting Friday morning.

The business started about a year ago just opened the bakery storefront two weeks ago.

Jessica Reed wears an Angry Birds hat while helping walk-in customers, reciting today’s offerings:

“Brownies, pizza crust, muffins, cupcakes and upside-down cakes," said Reed.

That's just a few of the gluten- and dairy-free baked goods you can buy at the counter or order online, all prepared by employees on the autism spectrum.

“I like my co-workers, my boss. I like to bake everything,” said Johnson. She calls this her favorite job after previously working at a big box store, grocery store and nursing home.

Reed was asked what she likes about working at the bakery. She pauses.

“Money," Reed said.

Finding and holding jobs to earn money can be a struggle for people on the autism spectrum, who often lack people skills like small talk. But Henley said they can be great, dependable employees.

“They're honest to a fault,” said Henley. “If you train them in one position, they're going to stay there then for a lifetime. So, if you are a small business owner and you have a monotonous kind of procedure and you have high turnover in that, it might lend itself to someone on the spectrum because they enjoy that completion, that process."

Shelly Henley founded the business for her son, Jacob Wittman, who wanted to be a chef as he became an adult. He is highly intelligent but not conversational. His answers to questions are thoughtful but brief.

What is special to him about this place?

“It's my own bakery," said Wittman.

“No label is going to limit any kind of outcome for my son or for my employees, so no label at the table,” said Henley. “We include everyone, regardless of your food allergies or regardless of having autism. You're included at our table."

No Label at the Table employs 13 people. The business is currently fully staffed but Henley expects to hire additional staff this summer. She has already been approached about the possibility of franchising her business.

Filed under: