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New coffee shop opens with ‘inclusive’ concept in Squirrel Hill

PITTSBURGH — A new coffee shop with an emphasis on inclusion is opening to the public on Election Day in Squirrel Hill.

“Bunny Bakes” will serve specialty coffees and baked goods Tuesdays through Fridays on Murray Avenue.

The concept has been years in the making, launched by The Friendship Circle, which holds its offices next door. The organization “is a community-based program that brings together people of diverse abilities and interests.”

Bunny Bakes continues that mission by employing individuals with special needs and abilities.

“We want the community to see what a true inclusive business model can look like, and that’s really what we’ve been building here,” said Rivkee Rudolph, The Friendship Circle director. “This gives an opportunity for people with disabilities to be working right alongside and with other trained and skilled professionals, and we can all be really successful together.”

“Local business owners can look at Bunny Bakes and at Friendship Circle as a potential model for hiring folks, and customers can come in and have increased interactions with people who are a little different from themselves, and make our whole community a better place,” said Rabbi Mordy Rudolph, executive director.

The Rudolphs, who founded Friendship Circle, told Channel 11 that the business began first as a pop-up concept. Staff members have undergone training to grow their skills and their resumes. Training is ongoing and the coffee shop is hiring.

“At Bunny Bakes, like at Friendship Circle, we offer (an) opportunity for everyone to participate and to continue and at the same time we ensure they have the skills and confidence to do so and we want to make sure that everyone has equal opportunity,” Rivkee said.

Trainees are given the skills to begin work at Bunny Bakes or to branch out elsewhere.

The space itself is also inclusive, with close attention having been paid to the design to ensure the space is warm and welcoming while also offering unique ADA features.

Lights can be dimmed to account for customers with sensory challenges and all tables are designed to accommodate those in wheelchairs. There is also an adult changing table within the bathroom, and the sign for it includes braille at an accessible height.

The coffee shop will be open Tuesdays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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