Hardware Store Owner and FLOBEL Advisor Felix Atlasman Partners with Fountain House Employees
FLOBEL Advisor Felix Atlasman has cultivated a sense of community amongst his clients and employees in Hell’s Kitchen for the past twenty years. As owner of American Home Hardware and More, Felix utilizes his store front for more than hardware retail. Partnering with community organizations like Fountain House | Inspiring Communities for Mental Health, American Home Hardware and More serves as an example for other retail establishments as they strive to infuse methods of social and economic equity in the workforce. Nectar News reporters Nicole Johnson and Kelsey Hor sat down to speak with Felix Atlasman of American Home Hardware and More and Ian Campbell (Employment Director) of Fountain House to discuss their new partnership.
NN: Ian, as Employment Director, we know you work primarily with job opportunities for Fountain House members. Can you give us some information about Fountain House’s history in NY?
IC: Fountain House is a nonprofit that was founded in 1948 by former patients of Rockland State Psychiatric Center. Our mission is to help adults with mental illness to reenter the community as workers, neighbors and friends. One of the most important ways that we do this, is through our employment program. The number one reason that people seek out help from Fountain House is because they are looking for work. We believe that adults with mental health illness are valuable workers. One of the main facets of our mission call us to visit local businesses and inquire about their hiring needs. That is where American Home Hardware and More fits into our story.
NN: How did Fountain House develop a relationship with Felix in Hell’s Kitchen?
IC: I met Felix who owns hardware stores about five blocks from Fountain House last year. I asked him about what he needed and he told us he could use good workers. After some discussion he gave us a 15 hour a week job at his main store on 9th avenue. Shortly thereafter he asked us if we could help him run his new store on 10th avenue. In the past, Fountain House has managed the operations of a few stores. We ran a coffee shop and we ran a thrift store during the 70s and 80s in Hell’s Kitchen. We currently run the cafe at the Bronx Museum, but we haven’t had an opportunity so close to Fountain House in a while. Meeting Felix seemed like a great opportunity to partner with someone who believes in our mission and wants to help the community. Last week we began working at Felix’s Hardware store on 10th avenue and 46th st. Our members were the only employees running the store from 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM Monday-Friday. We’ll be doing this for the foreseeable future.
NN: Are members of Fountain House on the payroll directly with American Home Hardware and More?
IC: Yes, they are on Felix’s payroll. We provide a job coach which is free to Felix because it is funded by various government contracts that support our day to day functions. We call our consumers members and all our members are doing the bulk of the work at the businesses we partner with. For example, opening the store in the morning, stocking, labeling, pricing, customer service, cleaning and organizing. At the end of the night we shut down and we are happy to say we do it all together.
NN: The majority of your members have a history of mental health challenges, is there an age range for members and do they spend time with you in different ways at your main Fountain House location on 47th st?
IC: Yes, you must be 16 years of age or older to be a member of Fountain House but there is no time limit on membership. We have people who have been members of the organization from the 1960s and people who walked in the doors today. We run an intentional community where we do work side by side with each other to keep our community existing and to help our membership. The membership is open to anyone with a history of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression. Interested community members must enter an application process to become a member of Fountain House and they attend the center for a myriad of reasons. Some members want a place to go, others want to make friends, and some people need help navigating the benefit system. There are several different things we do in our building on 47th street, but our employment program is the top reason that people come to Fountain House. It is the part of Fountain House that Felix has really connected with and has done an amazing service to.
NN: Felix, we would love to learn more about your history in the hardware business. How did you get started?
Learn more about Fountain House by clicking the link below and visit American Home Hardware & More to join a growing community that demonstrates service and equity.
- 24/7 AMERICAN HOME HARDWARE & MORE
- 590 9TH AVE@ 42ND ST or
- NEW YORK NY – 10036
- Phone: (212) 765-7356
- Fax: (212) 757-7045
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