They range in age from 16 to 37 and they’ve been with Starbucks from just a few months to more than 14 years. They’re from St. Louis and its suburbs of Florissant, Normand, University City and Ferguson.
Most people don’t know much about the dozens of communities that surround St. Louis, home to the iconic Gateway Arch, but they’ve heard of Ferguson. Protests, vandalism and looting took over a section of Ferguson for a couple of weeks in August 2014 after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. A second wave of protests, also with international media coverage, occurred in November of that year when Wilson was not indicted. The unrest sparked a debate in the U.S. about the relationship between law enforcement and African Americans.
During this raw, emotional time, Starbucks chairman and ceo Howard Schultz said, “We at Starbucks should be willing to talk about these issues in America. Not to point fingers or to place blame, and not because we have answers, but because staying silent is not who we are." Discussions at forums with Starbucks partners (employees) in St. Louis, and several other cities across the country, lead to the company’s pledge to hire at least 10,000 young people between the ages of 16-24 who are not in school or employed, often called “opportunity youth.”
Starbucks also committed to opening stores in at least 15 diverse low- to medium-income urban communities across the U.S. The first such store was in Jamaica, Queens, New York. The second is in Ferguson, Missouri – a community that has changed since the events of 20 months ago (as documented in this Starbucks Newsroom video).
To understand any community, it’s important to talk with the people who live there. Meet the partners of Starbucks new store at 10776 West Florissant Avenue:
Kevin – shift supervisor, one-year partner
My parents are from China, and I’m one of the first in my family to get a college degree. When I needed a job, Starbucks was on my list of places I was applying to because I love coffee. After I was hired I learned more about Starbucks and discovered that the company’s values align with my values. That’s when I decided to make a career out of this. This will be my second store opening with Starbucks, and the Ferguson store is going to be significant in helping improve the socio-economic status of many in the community.
Favorite coffee: Starbucks Guatemala Antigua
Josh – shift supervisor, four-year partner
When the unfortunate turn of events happened in Ferguson, people watched the all-consuming coverage on the news, but what they didn’t see is how the community came together in many positive ways. I’m excited to know that I’m a part of a company that supports Ferguson, and that I’ll be able to do my job but also support the community using my skills and things that I’m good at, such as leading a team and sharing my passion for coffee as a Starbucks Coffee Master.
Starbucks beverage: Quad, tall, one pump Cinnamon Dolce Americano
Taylor – assistant store manager, seven-year partner
I didn’t know anything about Starbucks when I was hired seven years ago, but I’ve stayed with the company because I’ve come to love what it stands for. With every store that I’ve been in, we develop a family and I’m looking forward to being a part of the Ferguson family. And while every store is a part of the community, I feel that with Ferguson I’ll be able to delve deep into this community to support partners and customers too. I’m proud that Starbucks is investing in the community and showing that we can all work together.
Starbucks beverage: Quad Espresso
Nancy – shift supervisor, six-year partner
I decided to work for Starbucks, in part, because I grew up with my dad drinking a whole lot of Starbucks coffee. I was also drawn to the company because of its benefits, and soon after I started working here I realized Starbucks values are a lot like mine. I’ve lived in the Ferguson/Florissant area my whole life so this Starbucks store is extra special for me and everyone in my family. I’m really excited to play a role in the community and do something bigger for the youth in the area, the locals and the local businesses.
Starbucks beverage: Iced, triple tall, white chocolate mocha, soy, no whip, in a grande cup, extra ice
Jasmine – shift supervisor, eight-year partner
I’m originally from Michigan and although I’ve lived in Missouri for 10 years, I haven’t been ready to call this my home until now with the opening of this Starbucks store in Ferguson. I’m looking forward to this new store being part of my home, part of my community, and getting to know my neighbors. It’s the people around us that make a place a home and the people here are great.
Starbucks coffee: Guatemala Antigua
Mason – barista, two-month partner
I’m still in school and was inspired to work for Starbucks by Cordell (Lewis, store manager). My hope with the new store in Ferguson is that it will be a good third home for everybody. People go to work, they have a home, and Starbucks is another place for them in the community. Our mission statement is to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time and it’s important to me that I help create that inspiring space in our store.
Starbucks beverage: Venti, White Mocha, soy, no whip
Adrienne – barista, two-month partner
I see firsthand the positive way Starbucks treats the community and partners. I feel comfortable and loved here and that’s also the way I plan to connect with others through the store in Ferguson. Some people don’t have anybody to turn to, so when they come into the store I want to make them feel better. I want them to leave with a smile knowing that someone cares. I know what it’s like to feel alone and not have someone to turn to for comfort, and I also know that amazing things can happen when you show you care. I hope the store changes peoples’ hearts in some way because Starbucks has changed me drastically since I started working here.
Starbucks beverage: Strawberry Acai, no water, heavy lemon, two pumps of peach
Terriana – barista, four-month partner
I have always dreamed of working at Starbucks because the baristas always look so fancy and professional. Any time I’ve ever been in a Starbucks the partners have always been engaging and fun to be around. So getting a job with Starbucks is like a dream come true. It means a lot to me that Starbucks is opening in Ferguson because I’ve always had a vision of myself playing a role in helping people see the best in themselves. Starbucks is helping move the community in a positive direction and I want to be a part of that.
Starbucks beverage: Vanilla Bean Frappuccino with hazelnut syrup
Jennifer – barista, 14-year partner
Although I’m not a St. Louis native, I’ve lived here for 10 years and I’m excited about this store opening. I appreciated that Howard and the leadership team took the time to come here after the events took place in Ferguson. They listened to partners and the community here and then decided to open a business here. They believe in the community and I’m honored to be a part of this. It’s important to me that people feel welcomed in our store and also that they have a great coffee experience with us.
Starbucks beverage: Quad Espresso
Nishia – barista, three-month partner
I love being a barista and connecting with people. Starbucks gives me an opportunity to do that and at the same time be with other partners who have become like family in just a short amount of time. I want to grow with Starbucks. From my experience, I know that Starbucks will bring a good, positive vibe to Ferguson. The community needs more companies like that.
Starbucks beverage: Cinnamon Dolce Latte
Jasmine – barista, four-month partner
I’ve always been aware of Starbucks because my foster mother used to work for Starbucks. When I came here to work it felt like home to me. I had to persevere and I like to speak to people to let them know that no matter what they’re going through at the moment, it gets better. I’m from the Ferguson community which needs something positive and needs a special place where people can better their lives. That’s what I believe Starbucks Ferguson store will be.
Starbucks beverage: Strawberry Blended Lemonade with five pumps of classic syrup
Jimesha – barista, year-and-a-half partner
To me the Starbucks store in Ferguson is a symbol of new beginnings – for the community as a whole, and also for individuals who will come into the store to use the training space. We’ll welcome people and hopefully help them realize no matter where they’re at in their life they can have hope and a new beginning. For me, one day I hope to work for the FBI after I get a degree in criminal justice. And if I look beyond that I’d like to be a philanthropist.
Starbucks beverage: Lemonade with peach syrup
Ara – barista, four-month partner
Opening this Starbucks store is a good chance to show the world what Ferguson is really like. We are a close community and people shouldn’t be afraid to come to here. When you meet people here you realize it’s a great community. What people saw on TV during was just one moment that was an expression of anger, but that’s not all that we are. When I’m not working, I’m in school taking a lot of AP (advanced placement) classes that will set me up for becoming a forensic scientist.
Starbucks beverage: White Mocha with an extra shot
Tyler – barista, three-month partner
Initially what attracted me to Starbucks was the company’s College Achievement Plan with Arizona State University. My cousin, who is also a barista in the new Ferguson store, told me about it and I’m going to enroll and be with Starbucks for awhile. I can see myself staying with the company because they support me. I’m from Ferguson and I appreciate that Starbucks is standing with Ferguson and is saying, “We support you.” This is a new start for the community and it’s just the beginning.
Starbucks beverage: Strawberry Frappuccino (I need something sweet)
Tony – barista, eight-month partner
Despite what took place in Ferguson, there’s so much potential for this community. I want people in other cities across the country to see that and really focus on what’s important. We shouldn't just be looking at what happened, but we need to be looking at what we can do to inspire the youth in this area. I want to become a teacher of either reading or writing. Right now I’m majoring in elementary education.
Starbucks beverage: Strawberry Acai refresher with two pumps of peach syrup, light ice, no water, sub lemonade
Spike – barista, two-month partner
Being a new barista is both physically and mentally challenging. I’m a very reserved person generally, but this job has made it so I’m able to learn to open up and connect with people. That was a very surprising benefit of working with Starbucks. I’m very proud to be working at the new Ferguson store. I’m from Ferguson, and I think the store has the opportunity to really reach out to the community.
Starbucks beverage: Grande White Mocha with caramel sauce and caramel drizzle and eight shots of espresso
Marisa – barista, two-month partner
Starbucks has always been my happy place and working here is a dream job while I finish my undergrad degree as a music performance major. I play viola and I want to go to a conservatory and ultimately get a job in a professional symphony somewhere. For now, it’s so cool to be able to work in the first store in Ferguson because of the community feel it will have. I’m also excited to have a team to work with and we’re already becoming a close family.
Starbucks beverage: Iced Green Tea Latte
Brooke – barista, five-month partner
A lot of peoples’ first reaction when they hear about Ferguson is negative. I’ve lived here since I was two or three years old and it’s a good place to grow up. I think it’s awesome that Starbucks becoming a part of the community and maybe others will follow. Starbucks is giving people a place to go and feel comfortable and put a little happiness in to their day. I’m excited to be a part of that. I like making people happy.
Starbucks beverage: Four shots of espresso over ice (I’m a college student) with four pumps of white mocha and whipped cream
Alexis – barista, two-month partner
I came to Starbucks because I wanted more for myself in terms of connections and wanted to do more for the community. I have a lot of family in Ferguson. Everything that happened over the past couple of years has brought down the community and I’m looking forward to this Starbucks offering opportunities to people in the area – not only in terms of jobs, but just in being able to have a place to go to talk with each other. We can welcome people and make them feel warm and comfy like a community should be.
Starbucks beverage: Black tea
Meaghan – barista, two-month partner
A flexible schedule brought me to the company and it was my mother-in-law who suggested I work for Starbucks, because she’s a fan. Now the more I hear about Starbucks and what it stands for I could stay here forever. I was past thinking I would ever go to college, but now with the company paying for education (Starbucks College Achievement Plan), I’m going to take that opportunity. I have a daughter who is 11 and I really want to do my best for her.
Starbucks beverage: Flat White with caramel
Deidric – barista, two-month partner
Originally I just wanted a job when I came to Starbucks, but now it’s so much more than that. I see how the company really cares about employees and that’s reassuring to me that I’m in the right place. I have a lot of family that lives in Ferguson and bringing a Starbucks to the community is going to be good for the neighborhood. As for my future, I’ve always been interested in fashion design or being a personal stylist. At first people told me, “Sewing isn’t for a dude,” but now I’m becoming known for my sense of style.
Starbucks beverage: Caramel Macchiato
Kenia – barista, seven-month partner
I was going through a rough patch in my life when Cordell (the store manager) called me for an interview. When I started working at Starbucks I fell in love with bar and latte art. I also plan to continue my education with ASU and hope to become a veterinarian. I’m also learning that I can achieve what I want if I just take it one step at a time. I just bought a car, so that’s an example of putting my plans into action. Things are turning around. I hope for the same for Ferguson with Starbucks.
Starbucks beverage: Vanilla Iced Coffee with caramel syrup
Dominique – barista, two-month partner
Friendly people and the inviting atmosphere attracted me to Starbucks and now I’m proud to say I’ll be one of the original partners at the Ferguson store. We’re all getting together to do something positive for the community and I believe it will make a difference. I’ve always been interested in law and want to be a criminal-justice attorney and forensic scientist, and I plan to stay with Starbucks even if I move for college.
Starbucks beverage: Vanilla Bean Frappuccino
Cordell – store manager, nine-month partner
I am in essence the “opportunity youth” we are trying to help. I come from a single-parent family with my mom raising me. I was lucky to have a coach who saw a spark in me when I was a high school athlete and that helped me turn my life around. Starbucks opening in this community means the company also sees the spark of what Ferguson can be come. As the first store manager, I was able to select each of the partners who are working here and I’m focused on being a coach to them and fanning the sparks I see in each and every one of them. Read more about this Q&A: ‘I was opportunity youth.’
Starbucks beverage: Tall iced quad, soy Caramel Macchiato
For more information on this story, contact the Starbucks Newsroom