by Lisa Moody Breslin photography by Amy McIntyre Devilbiss
Tucked into a cozy address on Baltimore Street (16 1/2, to be specific) is a business with a lot of heart called About It All.
“It” could be about the unique blend of services (custom apparel, decals and vaping supplies) offered at the shop.
“It” could be about owner Robert Myers’ turbulent personal journey from alcoholism and life in a shelter, to college and small business owner.
But for Myers, “it” is all about human dignity, specifically, the dignity of adults with special needs.
“Special needs adults, if you give them work, will go above and beyond because so few people have had enough confidence to know they can do it,” Myers said.
“I want the employees and volunteers in the shop to learn what I learned at the late age of 38,” he said. “When you support yourself through your best contributions, you feel so much better. You are living with a sense of purpose.”
Myers welcomes special needs adults as volunteers first and introduces them to Purpose Points that they earn as he mentors through lessons not only linked to retail, but also personal hygiene, timeliness and respect.
“I have seven volunteers who come in for an hour a week to gain their purpose points,” Myers said. “After 30 purpose points, they are eligible for employment when I’m able.”
Ryan Garrett, 23, is Myers’ first employee. He works weekdays and some Saturdays, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Garrett stays on the t-shirt side of the shop and does everything from helping with the vinyl letters to organizing inventory and creating shirts.
“My favorite job here is ‘picking,’ not like picking your nose,” he joked. “The picker is a tool to peel back vinyl – so unnecessary vinyl goes away. Another news person interviewed me and that wasn’t well described.”
Garrett is quick to note that as more people discover About it All, he gets to talk to reporters. “Usually I’m not real good with interviews, the people on people stuff, but I’m learning those skills.”
While Garrett talks, Myers beams.
“Right now, there is not enough money to hire another person,” Garrett added, “but I hope we can hire more kids with autism and other disabilities. Today is Rachel’s day; tomorrow is Sophie’s day to come in. I get to know more about others with little bits of autism or dyslexia.”
Most days, Myers is at the shop. He also works 15 hours a week with the direct care staff for Focus Behavioral Health, Inc. in Hanover.
“During my work with Focus, I often help clients quit smoking, which is how vaping became part of this shop,” Myers said. “I knew vaping profits would help as the t-shirt business grew.”
“I get chills talking about this,” Myers said. “Because my vision is coming to pass and it has only been a year. Fewer people are walking by and thinking ‘it’s just a vape shop.’”
It’s more than a vape shop and custom apparel.
It’s About It All.