An estimated 18 percent of youth in Brooklyn are disconnected from employment and educational opportunities, a challenge that is compounded in the Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy) neighborhood with 23.1 percent youth unemployment. In response, Starbucks plans to deepen its investment in the community and open its first store in Bed-Stuy, at 774 Broadway, dedicated to supporting local jobs and economic development. The store is a key part of the company’s initiative to invest in at least 15 underserved communities across the U.S. by 2018 by hiring locally, partnering with local nonprofit organizations to provide in-store job-skills training for youth, and working with local women- and minority-owned contractors, suppliers and vendors. The first of these Starbucks® stores opened in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, New York, in early 2016, which paved the way for five similar stores in Ferguson, Missouri, central Phoenix, Englewood in Chicago’s Southside, East Baltimore, and Long Beach, California.
“We believe Starbucks can play a meaningful role in creating job opportunities, while supporting ongoing efforts to drive economic revitalization,” says Carla Ruffin, regional director for Starbucks retail operations in Brooklyn. “As a Brooklynite, I am proud to see Starbucks making a long-term investment in Bed-Stuy in the form of a new store, and serve as a warm and welcoming place for our Bed-Stuy customers to come together over coffee. We look forward to working with the community in the months ahead to support economic development and open the kind of store Bed-Stuy residents can be proud of.”
Set to open in Spring 2018, Starbucks plans to work with local women- and minority owned contractors for the construction of the Bed-Stuy store, and is looking to partner with a minority-owned business in the area for a locally sourced product to feature in the café. It will also be the first Starbucks store in Brooklyn to include a unique in-store job training space. Working with a local nonprofit organization, Starbucks plans to provide Bed-Stuy youth ages 16 to 24 with a free multi-week job skills training program—based on Starbucks own renowned customer service curriculum. When trainings are not in session, the room will be available for local groups to use for meetings and dialogue—serving as a hub for members of the community.
"Starbucks will be a welcome addition to our community, and I’m particularly excited that this new store will be focused on helping provide economic opportunities and job training for young people from our neighborhood," says New York City Council Member Robert Cornegy. “As Chair of the City Council’s Small Business Committee, I believe Starbucks is creating a model for other businesses that further demonstrates that running a successful business and investing in local contractors, suppliers and youth are not mutually exclusive.”
“I’m excited to welcome Starbucks new store to Bed-Stuy,” says Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “This innovative concept will bring jobs, mentorship, and training opportunities for our neighborhood’s young people. This store will brew the next generation of leaders in Bed-Stuy and ensure that area youth will have a venue to access resources, meet new people, and get the skills they need to enter the job market, all while enjoying a cup of coffee.”
For Starbucks, the Bed-Stuy store marks an important milestone in a series of initiatives the company has championed across the country to create greater economic opportunities for young people as part of its nationwide commitment to hire at least 100,000 Opportunity Youth—16-24-year-olds who face barriers to employment and opportunity—by 2020. To date, the company has hired more than 40,000 opportunity youth in stores across the country and has brought more than 50 companies together to further scale this hiring effort through the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative.
Since opening the first of these stores at 89th & Sutphin in Jamaica, Queens in March 2016, Starbucks store manager Alisha Wrencher and her team of partners (employees), have been working to bring young people, customers, civic leaders and local businesses together with the shared goal of creating opportunities in the neighborhood.
Their daily efforts to drive connections with customers and invite the community to engage with the space have paid off. In addition to meeting and often surpassing their sales targets, the team has some of the highest partner engagement and retention in the area. Of the 23 partners hired at opening a year ago, 18 partners are still employed at this store, and 14 are from the Jamaica, Queens, neighborhood. Two partners have already been promoted to Assistant Store Manager and Shift Supervisor, four partners have earned the Barista Trainer position, and one partner is now a certified Starbucks Coffee Master.
Like similar Starbucks stores in Ferguson; Englewood in the Southside of Chicago; central Phoenix; Long Beach in California; and East Baltimore, the onsite job-skills training space at 89th & Sutphin is a key differentiator of the store. Two nonprofit organizations with long histories in Jamaica—Queens Community House (QCH) and YMCA’s Y Roads Centers—have used the store’s unique in-store classroom space to host job training programs for young people in Jamaica between the ages of 16 to 24 who have faced barriers to jobs and education. Since March 2016, more than 60 young people have completed the training curriculum, complete with instruction on the basics of customer service, barista skills and food-safety certifications that will be applicable for positions in a variety of retail or customer service roles. Nearly all participants have found work locally. The program has also allowed both organizations to extend the Starbucks curriculum to youth enrolled in other job training programs, indirectly benefitting an additional 347 young men and women over the last year.
When not in use for trainings, the store’s community meeting space serves as a hub for local organizations to use. For example, Life Camp, a local non-profit that aims to develop teens and adults into peer leaders, uses the Community Room every Friday and Sunday evening to plan and organize upcoming community events.
In the past year, the store has become part of the fabric of the Jamaica, Queens, community. Wrencher, a Jamaica, Queens native herself, received a certificate of recognition from the New York State Assembly and local New York Police Department precinct for her support and engagement with the community, and was recently invited to speak to attendees at a local women’s empowerment conference about the importance of education, making responsible decisions and overcoming personal challenges. Poetry Night is hosted the last Saturday of every month, and game nights have been organized to give young people a safe place to socialize. The store also hosts Partner Skills Workshops, Arts and Crafts events, and community service projects, in addition to Coffee with a Cop conversations designed to help strengthen ties between police officers and community members. At Thanksgiving, partners walked the streets and fed the homeless. And last September, Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz visited the store with Grammy- and Academy Award-winning performer, Common, as part of a Turn Up the Vote party in the neighborhood calling for greater engagement by voters in the community, and across the nation.