Café’s food is made, sold and served by employees with special needs

OAK LAWN, Ill. — A sign over the door to an Oak Lawn café says "A Little Something Extra Bakery," hinting at why the shop is getting as much attention for its team of employees as its baked goods.

"There's a lot of places you can go and buy yourself a donut or a cup of soup," owner Maria Veal said. "This place is special because of the people who work here."

Most who come for lunch and a little table-side conversation at the café, located at 4616 W. 103rd Street in Oak Lawn, don't know that every delicious homemade bite was made by a team of young adults with special needs.

"Kids with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome, so we decided to call the place 'A Little Something Extra,'" Veal explained.

Just a month ago, Maria Veal gave up her 25-year career as a banker to become a full-time baker, and opened the strip mall café with the hopes that it would be a place her son with special needs could work full time.

"It's all about giving these kids an opportunity. They will prove to you they can do it," Veal said.

The team of employees includes Maria's son, Billy and six of his closest friends who also have special needs. Their day begins early, as they mix batches of walnut brownies, lemon bars and giant chocolate chip cookies.

"I like making the cookie dough best," employee Moriah Fitzgerald said. "It's good to see people's faces light up with something you made and baked your heart out with."