Quarks American Bento: true disability advocates in St. Cloud!

If you head into Quarks American Bento Restaurant in Downtown St. Cloud any Monday through Saturday, you’ll probably spot Katie (pictured middle) working hard on-the-job alongside owners, Adam and Lisa Schulte. Quarks has been open since 2015 and specializes in quick, healthy, whole foods, as well as their ability to modify and adapt training to the individuals they hire.

Quarks first ever employee was autistic, and Adam and Lisa were more than willing to adapt training to make their employee successful. “We’ve always been willing to accommodate for the individuals we hire,” said Adam. “We can modify the way we teach our policies and procedures, but we cannot create the positive attitude and dedication that a new member can bring to the team.” Katie has been working at Quarks for almost 3 months now. She began her training with vegetable prep, now she’s moved onto setting up the serving line, cleaning off tables, washing dishes and more. She completed an online course for sanitation and has far surpassed Lisa and Adam’s goals for cross training. “We are very impressed with Katie and her reliability,” said Lisa. “She never uses any excuses at work, even if something is difficult, and has continued to move onto more difficult tasks over the course of the last three months.”

Katie loves working at Quarks! She bikes to and from work and is currently saving up to move to a different apartment. She enjoys learning all aspects of the job and never lets anything slow her down. Katie’s title is Essential Element,¬†as Quarks believes all members of the team are essential to make the restaurant work. “Other companies may not take the time to be human and train in a way that someone can respond to,” said Adam. “We are trying to change that idea: one individual and one customer at a time.” Katie also has the support of Opportunity Services, a local nonprofit that helps adults with disabilities find and maintain employment. “Having an Opportunity Services job coach has been wonderful,” said Lisa. “We haven’t needed any assistance with Katie, but it’s nice to know the support is there if something comes up.”

In addition to being amazing advocates for employees with disabilities, Quarks is currently competing in the MN Cup, the largest statewide startup competition in the United States. Since 2005, the MN Cup has awarded over $2.4 million to Minnesota-based startups and Adam and Lisa’s restaurant is currently one of 90 semi-finalists! They will find out if they move to the final round on August 21st. Until they hear about the MN Cup results, Quarks will stick to its normal routine.

“I love working here,” said Katie. “My co-workers and bosses are awesome and I can’t wait to learn everything there is to know about Quarks. Oh and it helps that I get to have lunch when I’m working here too!” Katie’s favorite meal at Quarks is a mix of chicken, brown rice, snow peas, carrots, green onions and kohlrabi. Be sure to say hi and give her favorite meal a try next time you stop by!