Pizza restaurant owned, operated by the deaf to expand nationwide

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It isn't the delicious pizza, or the throngs of customers waiting outside the doors to get in on any given night that first strikes you about Mozzeria in San Francisco's Mission district.

It's the silence.

In a fast-paced restaurant kitchen environment, the words "loud" and "chaos" may come to mind. Not at Mozzeria.

"Here at the restaurant and food truck, everyone is deaf," signs co-owner Melody Stein.

That applies not only to the 15 or so employees, but the people who built the restaurant and installed the gorgeous blue-hued pizza oven imported from Italy, to the servers and cooks.

"We have so many stories. People from other countries who fly in just to eat at Mozzeria. They hear about us somehow, or have read an article and one year later will fly out here. You have hearing people and deaf people and they all want to discover eating here," said Melody's husband, Russ.

Melody and Russ met at Gallaudet University, a university for the deaf while studying business. Six years ago, through self-proclaimed blood, sweat and tears, the pair opened Mozzeria and faced the challenges any deaf business owner would face.

"We had a really long journey to get here. We honestly didn't think we would actually pass a year, and now we have been open six years and it's been pretty amazing to see how successful it has been over the past six years," says Russ.

The deaf community, explains Melody, has many hurdles when it comes to employment.

"The unemployment rate is 70-percent and even those who graduate and hope to find a job are not getting hired. Who is willing to give them a chance?" Melody said.

Amanda Mosher is a four-year employee who can be found doing everything from greeting customers to pounding dough and firing up the pies.

"Here at Mozzeria, having the opportunity to succeed at your job is very important," Mosher said.

Now, there's a new opportunity to spread the message of empowering the deaf community, thanks to a first ever social venture fund grant from the non-profit Communication Service For The Deaf, or CSD.

That partnership, explains Russ, will allow the restaurant to have franchises all over the U.S.

While the grant amount is undisclosed, and the number of restaurants not yet established, what the Steins do know is that the grant will allow them to provide training and mentoring for other deaf business owners. Russ's own father owned a business and knows the challenges. "Things like how to handle customer service, how to respond to customers. In terms of deaf support there is nothing," he said.

When asked what it's like knowing they have the resources to become the first ever deaf-run restaurant franchise, Russ beams.

"We are very fortunate, and very lucky," said Russ.

Click here to learn more about Mozzeria.
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