Leesburg store employing people with special needs

Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 5:47 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2022 at 6:26 PM EDT
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LEESBURG, Ga. (WALB) - Opportunity. That’s a what a store in downtown Leesburg is doing for people with special needs.

Sheri Barlow is the owner of Zak’s French Market and Consignment. After being open for about a month, she said sales have been good, but the experience her employees are getting has been even better.

“We have had an awesome first month. Our individuals who work in the store have absolutely enjoyed the opportunity to serve lee county, and just to actually have a job,” said Barlow.

Marquita McClendon, left, is the residential manager, of the store, and Sheri Barlow, right, is...
Marquita McClendon, left, is the residential manager, of the store, and Sheri Barlow, right, is the owner.(WALB)

Working with people who have special needs, Barlow said the purpose of this store was to give them opportunities.

“A lot of time, people shy away from them. Not now. They can do what we do — have a normal job have a normal life,” said Barlow.

Residential Manager Marquita McClendon said she’s seen that firsthand.

“I think sometimes that’s made them shy away. Some of them have a hard time approaching the community because of how they’ve been overlooked or how they’ll be stared at in the community,” said McClendon.

The purpose of Zak’s is to help open doors for their employees. Learning the ins and outs of running a store, and for 33-year-old Natassa Foster, this is the first job she’s ever had.

She said it makes her happy.

28-year-old Jamitchell Buckner said he’s worked in other places, but that there's nothing like...
28-year-old Jamitchell Buckner said he’s worked in other places, but that there's nothing like Zak’s.(WALB)

28-year-old Jamitchell Buckner said he’s worked in other places, but that there’s nothing like Zak’s.

“It’s amazing. I’ve never had a job like working in a store. It’s amazing,” said Buckner.

Barlow said her goal is to give this kind of opportunity to anyone who needs it.

“They don’t have to just sit at home and not have a plan for their life. Let us help you build and plan for their lives and those skills for your children and loved ones,” said Barlow.

If you have questions or want to get involved with Zak’s, call (229) 883-4844.