November 4, 2014 Opportunity

Starbucks Patriotic Aprons Spark Conversations Between Veterans and Customers

Five words stunned a Starbucks barista.

“Thank you for your service.”

It was a phrase he didn’t hear more than 40 years ago when was in the U.S. Army, and never expected to hear as he handed a tall latte to a customer in a drive-through Starbucks store in Florence, South Carolina.

“People can look at me with my gray hair and gray beard and realize I’m not fresh out of the service,” Will Ginn said. “I’ve never talked much about my military years. The Vietnam-era was not good for the U.S. or the military. It wasn’t a good time to be in uniform.”

The uniform Ginn wears today tips customers off to his military background.

After careers in banking and health care, the 67 year old chose to work part-time at Starbucks rather than retire. He appreciates the company’s benefits and likes interacting with customers and co-workers. The iconic green Starbucks apron he wears is different from those worn by most store partners (employees). It includes an embroidered American flag above the Starbucks logo, with his name and branch of service – Will, Army veteran.

Adding special identification to the green apron is designed to create an even stronger relationship between partners who have a personal connection with the military and Starbucks

The initial sets of aprons were presented on Independence Day to partners who work at the company’s first military Community Store in Lakewood, Washington.

More patriotic aprons are being distributed to partners who signed up at Roll Call, a Starbucks website where veterans and military spouses can identify their armed forces affiliation. The site is part of the company’s commitment to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2018.

When Will Ginn put his new apron on, he didn’t expect anyone to say anything. Customers noticed. Many began thanking him for serving.

“It’s touching,” Ginn said. “To be honest with you, it makes me think back to the years I left behind and filed away.”  

He comes from a military family that includes a 30-year Navy veteran father. Ginn graduated from Clemson University, entered the Army in October of 1970 and became one of the 9 million Americans who served in the military during the Vietnam War era (1964 to 1975).

“Veterans of my era knew at the time we weren’t well-liked by the American people. I couldn’t have imagined that one day I’d be talking with co-workers who are a fraction of my age and customers about military service,” he said. “Four decades later I can say I’m proud I served.”

For more information on this story, contact the Starbucks Newsroom