Reno pizzeria employing disabled persons receives national recognition
This is the first in a series of stories centering on the Northern Nevada Business View’s content focus for September — “Food & Beverage/Restaurants.” Look for this story and others in our September print edition (which publishes August 27), and look to http://www.nnbw.com this week for several more features.Read more in our Food & Beverage/Restaurants series: Part two: Print, TV and radio … oh my! Restaurants turn to social media to boost business Part three: Eateries reap benefits of organic marketing from photo-happy Instagrammers Part four: Appetite for healthy, vegan options among Millennials, Gen Z shaking up food industry in Northern Nevada Part five: Local food advocates work to bring more urban farms to Northern Nevada Part six: Reno-Tahoe food hub advancements help foster farm-to-table dining Part seven: Demand for deliveries dramatically changing restaurant industry in Northern Nevada and beyond Part eighth (final installment): From bitcoin to Bluetooth, Reno restaurants are savoring the tech boom to create efficiency
RENO, Nev. — Before you taste their nationally-ranked New York style pizza, Walter and Judy Gloshinski want you to know something: It’s about more than just a good slice.
Posted at the entrance to the pizzeria — and several other place throughout the restaurant — is their mission statement: “To create hope and meaning in the lives of people with disabilities.”
For 2.5 years, the Gloshinskis have been running Smiling with Hope Pizza in Reno where they employ people with developmental disabilities.
“Our employees greet customers, wash dishes, fold boxes, sweep, mop, bus tables and carry all of the pizzas out to our customers’ cars if they let us,” said Walter. “We don’t put limits here. You never know what they will end up being drawn to and capable of.”
Walter spent 23 years teaching special education in schools around the country, but found that most classrooms were not preparing disabled students for the workforce.
“I found that I had high school kids with disabilities that were at their max,” he said. “They had mental retardation. They had Down syndrome. They had moderate autism. Their learning hadn’t budged in a decade and they were doing third-grade level work.
“And I thought, there is no future in any type of academic training or career. We have got to learn how to work.”
Walter found a way to get his students into home economics classrooms and, drawing upon his Italian roots, started teaching them about cooking and the ins and outs of running a kitchen.
“Finally at my last job in Ohio I had a 2,000-square-foot kitchen built for me in a new high school, and my students and I fed 11,000 people a week,” said Walter. “We partnered with the Amish to create organic healthy grains for the schools for bagels, muffins, cookies, and breads. We worked with (food vendor) Bon Appetit. We served cafes, restaurants, the general public.”
And by building relationships in the restaurant industry, Walter was able to find jobs for his students and help them navigate the work as they finished high school.
In January 2017, the Gloshinskis moved their mission to Reno and opened Smiling with Hope Pizza, at 6135 Lakeside Drive, No. 101.
Using fermented dough, whole-milk mozzarella, housemade sausage, dried oregano sourced from Sicily and whole-wheel Parmesan freshly grated in the restaurant, every aspect of the New York-style pizza is focused on quality.
That quality has not gone unnoticed. In 2017 and 2018, Yelp ranked Smiling With Hope Pizza in its top 100 restaurants to visit in the country.
The walls of the restaurant are decorated with art made by disabled people, with 100 percent of the sales going to the artist. A Wall of Fame features pictures of Special Olympics athletes.
“Our employees are transparent, loving, forgiving, trusting and genuine. If you look at the major religions of the world, they possess all of the traits that Jesus and Buddha and Allah say we should have, but our society doesn’t value that,” said Walter. “In fact, it’s a detriment in our culture, and people will take advantage of them.”
For the Gloshinskis, it’s about giving meaning to the lives of people who might not otherwise have the chance to work.
“Everybody needs to have meaning and hope, and work gives you hope,” he added.
At the end of July, the city of Reno named Smiling With Hope Pizza as its second-ever Business Recognition Program recipient.
The program launched earlier this year and celebrates businesses that add to the richness of the city, enhance the quality of life for residents, and find solutions to issues facing the city.
“Getting that award really moved us,” said Walter. “I want to thank the community of Reno. Somebody buys two chocolate chip cookies and they will put down a $100 tip. It’s enabled our employees to make wages that they could never make either.
“The support from the community has been spectacular.”
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.