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In 1982, Bernie Glassman, a Brooklyn-born Zen Buddhism teacher, was living with his students in a home called Greyston Mansion located north of Manhattan. Along with the Zen Community of New York (ZCNY), Bernie opened a small bakery café nearby as a way to employ the students. The café successfully supported the students, but Glassman wanted to do more. His Buddhist beliefs drew him to community development and work with the homeless and unemployed. His opportunity came when the mayor of Yonkers invited the ZCNY to move the business to his city. The ZCNY sold Greyston Mansion, closed the café, and moved into one of Yonkers’ most troubled neighborhoods. There, an abandoned lasagna factory became home to Greyston Bakery.
37 years later, Glassman’s philosophy is thriving and summed up beautifully in the Bakery’s statement,
“We don’t hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people.”
Greyston walks its talk of changing lives and communities through radical inclusion and its Open Hiring business model.
Here’s how the Open Hiring process works. You put your name on a list, get a call and get a job when a job becomes available. That’s it. No background check, no credit check, no drug test. Individuals who demonstrate they are ready and willing to work by completing Greyston’s paid Bakery apprenticeship are offered full-time employment.
As well as providing employment, Greyston has created structures and support systems such as its Workforce Development program that provides hard and soft skills training for low-income individuals. It helps team members build knowledge and skills to obtain and retain entry-level employment in industries including culinary arts, security, and construction, and all participants leave with a nationally recognized credential and active job development, placement and retention follow-up.
So how are the brownies? If you’ve ever enjoyed Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie or Half-Baked™ ice cream flavors, then you’ve already had a taste of Greyston’s greatness. You can buy Greyston’s brownies in Whole Foods and Wegman’s, and Delta gives them out on flights.
Kudos to Greyston for epitomizing a Zen-inspired approach to investment in human potential and building a more inclusive economy.
To learn more about Greyston’s guiding principles, click here.