Why you know her: If you’ve been to Natalie’s Taste of Lebanon at 3601 Cox Road in Henrico County, chances are you’ve been escorted to your table by Natalie Schwartz (at left in photo) and maybe even had a brief talk with the friendly hostess. Her parents, Anne-Marie Irani and Larry Schwartz, opened Natalie’s in December 2016 with a dual purpose: To share the love of Irani’s Lebanese heritage through nourishing plates of shawarma beef, chicken kebabs and stuffed cabbage rolls, but also to give their youngest child and only daughter a place of employment where she could thrive. Natalie, 26, has Williams syndrome, a genetic condition that occurs at birth and can manifest in a variety of ways, from heart and health issues to learning and developmental delays. Natalie works there during the week and occasionally during special events.
What’s new: Natalie’s Taste of Lebanon continues to be a place where those with special needs can find employment. Irani said the restaurant now has seven young adults with disabilities on staff, including two hostesses, one of which is being trained by Natalie.
Outside of work, Natalie is a longtime participant with the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, or SPARC. Just this year, she was part of a group that performed with Jason Mraz at the Library of Congress in May, and then on the “Today Show” in August. SPARC also participated in an event for Special Olympics in Chicago with Chance the Rapper in July.