WASHINGTON (ABC7) — Melody and Russ Stein, who are both deaf, are working to open a new Neapolitan-style pizzeria in Washington, D.C., with all deaf employees working the restaurant.
Mozzeria, set to open in the Spring of 2020, will be located on 1300 H St. NE, down the street from Gallaudet University. The pizzeria is already successful in San Francisco, this will be their second location.
The owners, Russ and Melody Stein did not get here by chance but by hard work. Melody, who grew up in a restaurant, was turned away from culinary school because she’s deaf.
Now, the husband and wife run one of the top rated restaurants in San Francisco. All of the employees are deaf and communicate using American Sign Language (ASL).
Melody and Russ Stein, co-founders of Mozzeria said “Russ and I are both excited about Mozzeria expanding to Washington D.C. Having a restaurant in D.C. has been a long-time dream of ours. Washington D.C. holds a special place in our hearts because that’s where we met at Gallaudet University. Washington D.C. is considered a mecca for deaf people.”
This will also mark the second ASL-centric business on H Street joining the Starbucks Signing Store that opened last fall.
Mozzeria and other deaf-owned eateries have shown that putting deaf customers front and center can lead to success.
According to CSD Social Venture Fund, 70% of deaf people are unemployed or underemployed.
Dominic Lacy is the Chief Innovation Officer of Communication Service for the Deaf and head of the CSD Social Venture Fund. CSD Social Venture Fund is the nation’s first venture fund for deaf owned and operated businesses which is providing significant support for Mozzeria’s national expansion to D.C. and eventually other cities.
Lacy explained “We want to disprove all doubt that deaf people are capable workers by doing and showing real-life examples rather than just talking about it, though talking about it is a must. Melody and Russ made the decision to hire all deaf employees a few years back at their San Francisco location and have not regretted it and, for us, this is a way of “walking our talk” by supporting a business model that directly invests in deaf people.”
Lacy says they hope to open eight to 12 locations around the country.