If you stop by Sam's Canterbury Cafe near Johns Hopkins University, you'll likely meet Sam Myers. He's the namesake of the cafe and works there four days a week.
"He loves it. It's his cafe," said his mom Jennifer Myers, who is co-owner of the cafe. "From the young man who was reluctant to walk in the door the first time, he has taken full ownership of it. He loves it, he loves the guests and he loves helping them."
Jennifer and her husband Michael Myers had no clue about running a restaurant before they opened the cafe last year. But they wanted Sam, who has autism, to thrive after he graduated. He enjoyed working in the kitchen and dining room settings, so they decided to open a cafe and give him a place to work.
When asked if they started the cafe purely out of love for Sam, they both smiled wide and said yes.
"If it were not for Sam, we wouldn't have started a new business," said Michael.
They began looking for the perfect location and their search brought them to the Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood near Johns Hopkins University. They felt it was a place that would bring in a lot of regulars to the cafe.
"So they would get to know Sam and now understand the mission and not just supportive of it but a part of it," said Michael.
The mission of Sam's is to serve quality food while providing meaningful employment for people with autism. The Myers make good on that promise by employing about half a dozen others with autism through a partnership with Itineris. The Myers enrolled Sam into to a program prior to opening the cafe and Michael now serves on the group's board.
"I don't want it to be thought of as the place where special needs people work," said Michael. "We were trying to create a special place period. A great neighborhood cafe where it just happens that some of the staff are on the autistic spectrum."
Its a delicate balance between educating customers and creating a warm and inviting environment.
"I'm happy if they come visit the first time because they heard about what we do, but of course it needs to be a wonderful guest experience with good food and a nice atmosphere for them to keep coming back."
During the month of April, which is National Autism Awareness month, Sam's Canterbury Cafe is having a few promotions including a special blue-themed menu and an open house on April 28. They will also be donating a percentage of their sales in April to Itineris. The cafe is also celebrating its one year anniversary.
Click here for more details about Sam's and how its celebrating Autism Awareness month.