KENNEDY | New confectionery helps employees with special needs find the right fit
Photo By Elizabeth Perry
Ken Feda and Hannah Feda scoop up ice cream.
By Elizabeth Perry
Cookie Cookie Ice Cream Company is a family-owned ice cream shop that aims to provide delicious, homemade treats to customers and to give employment opportunities to people with special needs.
From the decorations on the walls to the packaging choices for the ice cream and cookies, each aspect of the shop is carefully considered for the needs of customers and employees alike.
“Every little bit of our project ties into our mission,” said Connie Feda, head baker and co-owner.
Setting up shop in the former Bob’s Diner storefront space in Kennedy Center, the ice cream shop which also sells baked goods opened on Sept. 27. The confectionery is operated by Addison Fox, the self-described president and ice cream maker, his mother Connie and his sister Hannah Feda. They serve coffee, pints of ice cream, cookies, muffins, brownies and delicious ice cream sandwiches. Paintings hanging on the walls were created by people with special needs or those related to the community.
The Kennedy Township business was conceived as a way to insure Hannah, who has Down syndrome, has a workplace where she can thrive. Previously, Hannah’s other workplaces included one that was a 45-minute drive for a three-hour shift at a cafe. Connie was frustrated by the options open to her daughter.
Connie said her own favorite job was working at Baskin Robbins. It’s where she learned to decorate cakes and thought it would be the best business for them to start.
Addison and Connie went to Penn State’s Ice Cream University for a 72-hour intensive course to learn how to make ice cream in January 2020.
They were the only people in the class who’d never made ice cream before. While they were in class, Addison became inspired and scribbled the words, cookie, cookie ice cream on a napkin. Theresa Feda, who is Addison and Hannah’s sibling, and also an artist, used the napkin as a template for the company’s logo. The brightly-colored murals inside the shop were also painted by Theresa, with an assist from Hannah.
Addison moved from Madison, Wis. to Pittsburgh in December 2021 with a business plan to open the shop, but wasn’t able to get a bank loan.
“I ended up liquidating my 401K,” Addison said.
Connie put her life savings into the plan. They’re dedicated to proving that if given a chance, people who are often discounted in society are capable.
“A lot of places you have to change the culture of a place for people with special needs, but that is already our culture,” Connie said.
They’re working with Montour School District’s office of vocational transition to place special needs students in their employ.
Kris Eichner, the transition coordinator at Montour, comes and works one on one as a job coach with employees. Eichner thinks transitional education will be a “game-changer” for the disabled community. Usually, when students with special needs graduate, they no longer have the resources they did as students. Eichner said the community calls this, “falling off the cliff.”
With transitional education, students can learn through simulated driving and simulated interviews to get past basic hurdles to employment and achieve a measure of self-sufficiency. Eichner said schools are building partnerships with businesses to give workers with different challenges adaptive equipment and visual aids so they can work independently.
“A lot of these kids can do a lot more than people think they can,” Eichner said.
At Cookie Cookie Ice Cream, Connie designed packaging, especially so people with disabilities can use them easily. Also, she said the packaging was less expensive, so being adaptive doesn’t necessarily mean spending more.
“Any transition student that comes in we want to give them the skills they need to move on from us,” Addison said.
Giving people a chance to succeed is not the only mission of Cookie Cookie Ice Cream Company. Creating delicious treats is the other goal.
“All of our cookies are old family recipes,” Connie said. The best compliment she got was when a customer said, “these cookies taste like a mom made them.”
Nobody at Cookie Cookie Ice Cream is afraid of giving out free samples. They’re confident one taste will not be enough.
“Our ice cream speaks for itself. When you try it you want it,” Addison said.
Addison likes to experiment with unusual flavors. An unexpected hit was called Breakfast at Bob’s. It was maple ice cream flavored with Belgian waffles and bacon from the diner next door.
“I had to rush out three more pans.”
A community ice cream social is being planned from 6 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 10 to welcome the special needs community in the area and their families to the confectionery, although everyone is welcome.
“We would never tell people not to come eat ice cream,” Connie said.
Hours for Cookie Cookie Ice Cream Company, located at 1815 McKees Rocks Road, Kennedy is 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.