When a Vernon man with autism struggled to find a job that fit him, his mom suggested turning his passion into a paycheck. What happened next is worth writing about.
When 22-year-old Ryan Wendell and his mom found out The Book Rack in Vernon was closing after 30 years in business, they knew it was the perfect opportunity, and decided to buy it.
“I was trying to find a job like all of last year and like I was struggling to find it,” Ryan, who co-owns and manages the store, told NBC Connecticut. “I knew like, oh yeah, I’m going to like this job.”
Books are Ryan’s passion.
“Since I was younger, I always really liked reading,” he said in an exclusive interview Tuesday. “I like how it’s pretty much like an escape from reality.”
Ryan said his favorite part of running the book shop five days a week is talking to his customers.
“Every conversation is very different and you see everybody’s different personalities,” he explained. “There’s people who just come in to really just like talk to me. It’s made me feel more like I can communicate better with people.”
His mom said she’s seen a change in him since he started working at The Book Rack.
“His self-esteem has gotten much better,” said Patti Wendell, who co-owns the business with her son. “It was always a concern, you know, where is he going to fit in? You know, have a job, be successful, be happy. It’s a lot of responsibility and he’s managing it.”
“I don’t want to be treated as if I have a disability, I mean I like being treated as a normal person,” Ryan, who usually doesn’t talk about having autism, said.
Today, he’s hoping his story inspires others like him to challenge themselves and not give up on their goals.
“Don’t give up on the job hunting and don’t feel like the fact that you have a disability is a hindrance to you,” he added.
For Ryan Wendell, in this little corner of Vernon, there are no limits.
“I come in here every day and I think, you know, it’s like a new day.”
Ryan got a certificate to be a Library Technical Assistant from Capital Community College. He and his mom want to make sure The Book Rack gives back to others like him in the community, so they’ve donated portions of book sales to a local organization that provides job training for folks with disabilities and Ryan himself is also training a special education high school student at the store.