Calgary business owner who is deaf overcoming barriers in life and the pandemic

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WATCH: COVID-19 has been hard on a lot of Alberta businesses, and the will to overcome it has been inspirational. Jill Croteau has the story of one restauranteur who has seen a lot of personal and professional challenges, but is blazing a trail for other women – Jun 4, 2021

Business owners who have survived the COVID-19 pandemic are a true example of overcoming all the odds.

In the midst of a public health crisis, a handful of vendors set up shop at the Fresh and Local Market and Kitchens in southeast Calgary.

Ebony Gooden and her husband Aki Hatzistamatis took a leap opening Mykonos Street Grill. Gooden’s entrepreneurial drive is especially unique.

Mykonos Street Grill. Jill Croteau/Global News

“As a deaf business owner, I want to see how do I show and inspire other deaf people this can be done and obstacles can be overcome,” she said.

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Gooden has had a lifetime of overcoming barriers and has been a tireless advocate for her community.

“A lot of people see me as first as a Black person, and then secondly, I have a disability.”

“There are challenges to both and I do label myself as a Black deaf woman, that’s part of my identity,” Gooden said.

Sign posted at Mykonos Street Grill. Jill Croteau/Global News

She said COVID-19 has made it challenging to stay afloat financially and with customers.

READ MORE: Calgary businesses have struggled during COVID-19 pandemic but remain optimistic: poll 

“Unfortunately, since COVID(-19) hit, everyone has had to wear masks and that has been really hard for the hard-of-hearing community for lip reading, so we’ve had to adjust — using an iPad, for example — and people can point on a paper I have posted to help them order.”

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Hatzistamatis said he’s proud of his wife and the hard work put in to create an inclusive business.

“I never thought I would be learning sign language,” Hatzistamatis said. “It adds another level to it — that hearing people need to adapt to Ebony when she’s taking the orders — and I need to adapt when deaf people are taking orders.

“There has been a lot of learning, but everybody seems to come out the better for it.”

Gooden is grateful for the opportunity to be the role model she never had.

“I am one of a few Black deaf women who live in Calgary,” she said. “It can be lonely.

“I hope I can inspire people to look at Calgary as a community to flourish in, and hopefully we have more diversity and we can promote hope for the community.”

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