Honoring Boston’s Resilience, Starbucks Marks its 20th Anniversary in the City

A young Starbucks barista always wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.

Peter A. Petrillo worked seven days a week in his variety store known for its meatball subs and fried egg sandwiches. Petrillo knew his customers by name and by their orders, and he welcomed them in like they were family.

“People loved the guy so much, they dedicated a square in Cambridge, Massachusetts in his memory,” said Peter Petrillo, whose family has lived in the Boston-area for 100 years.

With a classic Boston accent, Petrillo said he’s been with “Staahbucks” since October of 2012. He is a partner (employee) in Starbucks Soldiers Field Road store, dedicated to a level of customer service that would make his grandfather proud.

“I get a chance to really connect with people who come in every day. I love this company and I love this city,” Petrillo said. “Boston has a reputation of being a tough city, but that’s just a persona. When you get underneath that, from the culture to the people, everything about Boston is just awesome.”

Petrillo is one of about 1,200 Starbucks partners in 54 Boston stores celebrating the company’s 20th anniversary in Beantown. They marked the milestone with a community service project at Curtis Guild Elementary School involving Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. The volunteer effort on April 12 involved creating 200 literacy kits with grade level books, landscaping the school yard and painting playground murals. One mural in oversized yellow letters proclaims the familiar phrase 'Boston Strong.'

Partners will also took part in a virtual coffee tasting (April 15) and paused for a moment of silence as Boston remembered what happened a year ago when Petrillo says, “the city’s heart broke.”

On April 15, 2013, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon at 2:49 p.m. killing three people and injuring 264 others. A Starbucks store on Boylston Street sits between the locations where the bombs went off about 12 seconds apart.

“The street was packed and our store was crowded with friends and family waiting to meet runners at the finish line,” recalled Marcus Eckensberger, a Starbucks regional director covering the greater Boston area and New England. “By chance, about six months earlier Starbucks had the glass replaced on the Boylston store from single-pane windows to a double-pane window made of safety glass.”

The glass crumbled and fell to the ground, rather than shattering inward, from the second bomb blast. No Starbucks partners or customers at that store were physically injured, although they face many of the same emotional challenges as those who were traumatized by the explosions.

'As a community we are stronger now'

“Everyone knows where they were at the time of the bombing and the lockdowns that followed,” said Zeta Smith, Starbucks regional vice president for the Northeast.

Although it was “very scary and very concerning,” Smith says Starbucks partners responded with strength as they helped customers evacuate after the explosions and remain calm during the area-wide lockdown that came days later.

At the urging of the City of Boston, Starbucks was one of the first businesses to reopen along Boylston Street as the community began to show its resilience.

“Even a year later it’s hard for me to believe this tragedy happened, but I think as a community we are stronger now. I've seen people care more about each other. You see that everywhere you go in Boston. It’s a small town disguised as a big city,” said Anita Oldham, a customer at the Starbucks Boylston Street store.

This year about 36,000 runners – 9,000 more than last year – will participate in the Boston Marathon and pay tribute to victims, survivors and first responders. The 118th running of the marathon will take place Monday, April 21. That day, partners in Starbucks Boylston Street store will do the same thing baristas throughout the city will do – care for their customers.

Brian Fisher was a Starbucks customer before he became manager of the first Starbucks store that opened in Boston 20 years ago at the corner of Charles and Beacon Streets. From the other side of the counter, he saw how partners connected with customers through a smile or conversation as they handcrafted and served beverages.

“It’s on me to give everyone who walks through my door the same experience that made me fall in love with this company,” said Fisher.

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