Feb 20, 2021
In Cherished Memories
Starbucks has always managed to attract Partners who are overqualified. Why? It's a brand with heart! We had a Partner in one of our Albuquerque stores named James. To me, he was a bit of a mystery. He worked as a CPA during the day and didn't seem like someone who "needed" an extra job or supplemental income. The reason that James worked at Starbucks in the evening was he wanted the community. He worked at our store on Central, not far from the University of New Mexico. One day, James stopped coming to work. This wasn't like James. Then the story started spilling out. James had died of AIDS. None of us knew about his personal struggle and it wouldn't have mattered if we had known, other than maybe we could have supported him. A shift supervisor from another store was living in James' home when this all happened. It turned out that when James was younger he had been a successful drag queen. Unfortunately, his nuclear family objected to his "lifestyle" and they hadn't communicated in years. What was driving James to work at Starbucks was a chance to have another family. This time his fellow Partners and guests. I did not know James well, but I have thought of him many times over the years. Even though he was surely struggling on many levels, he found peace in the environment that is Starbucks. I can't think of a greater legacy for the "third place" environment that the company has always aimed to create. James, you have never been forgotten! 🌟
Feb 20, 2021
One of the big unknowns by the general public is how much Starbucks contributes to its surrounding communities. I worked at a new center in Albuquerque, New Mexico (Journal Center) that was in a high-volume business area which meant we had a lot of guests M-F but relatively slow Saturdays. One of my guests was the director of a non-profit devoted to literacy, ReadWest, Inc. I got to know her and over time I discovered that Starbucks also had the Starbucks Foundation which provided grants to organizations like ReadWest. At the time, I was studying PR in college when I had my Eureka! moment. We could apply for a grant for ReadWest and then build a literacy campaign around it. It would stimulate awareness in the non-profit, literacy in general and also highlight to locals that our Journal Center store was open on Saturdays! This was the first PR campaign I ever got to put together. In May 1998, we invited local celebrities (Mayor, Governor's wife, news anchors, etc.) to come to the store and read books to kids. It was so heartwarming! Each week we generated free publicity for all involved. It was a rare feel-good story that May! I was so proud to have been part of it. It is said that no good deed goes unpunished. I was working with our PR firm in Denver for the campaign. I became good friends with my counterpart and when I graduated from college she wrote a recommendation letter for my internship application in Washington, DC. Long story short? I got the internship that launched my PR career in Congress for seven years! I owe so much to Starbucks and one reason I have always had positive feelings for the company is that it truly puts its values front and center.