Most of the partners (employees) who are working in Starbucks new store in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side have a personal connection to the area.
Many grew up there, familiar with the higher than average poverty and unemployment rates. A few lost family and friends there, a painful reality that Englewood’s violent crime rate is among the highest in the city.
Despite problems, there’s potential. They’re optimistic that new development from Starbucks and other businesses will lead to a brighter future in the community they still call “home.”
Kenyarah Williams, 8-year partner, store manager
I was just promoted in June and this new location in Englewood is my first store. I’ve experienced a lot and have helped other partners succeed over the years, but I’ve never been a part of a store opening so this is exciting. It’s also special for me because I live in Englewood – within walking distance to the store. Being a part of something positive for the community is huge for me. I’m very hopeful that something like this can make a difference. Having a training facility to teach young people how to dress, how to act, how to prepare for an interview is important. I think those skills are something many of us take for granted and assume are being taught to young people, but they’re not. We need to help these young people and give them the best chance to succeed. I’ve hired 13 partners for my store and every one of them have a great personality. I can’t wait for people in the community to meet them.
Dana Smith, 3-year partner, barista
Englewood is the only home I know. I haven’t been outside of Chicago at all. I’ve never left the city, but I imagine it’s a beautiful world out there. I picture flowers; I picture peace. That’s what I want for my children. My daughter is going to be 4 soon and I also have a 3 month old. I want the best for them. I want them to go for their dreams and I’m going to support them all the way. A lot of people will try to bring you down, but I won’t let them. My kids are my biggest motivation and I’m determined to be a role model for them. I’m excited that Starbucks is building here because I want everyone to see that there is hope. It will be a turning point for the area. I go through every day being hopeful, and that’s my wish for others too.
Sophelia Baptiste, 1-week partner, barista
My mom has worked for Starbucks for 14 years, and I joined the company recently in a way to live my brother’s dream for him, because he also wanted to work at Starbucks. I lost him to violence in Englewood about three months ago. He’s the third brother I’ve lost – the first in 2001 and then three years ago. My brothers chose street life. I chose a different path. I graduated from school with top honors and am determined to create a better life for my three children. I just purchased my first house at the age of 30, so I know it can be done. A better life is possible for everyone and I hope we can inspire others in Englewood to choose the right path.
Claudia Williams-Persons, 10-year partner, shift supervisor
I was born and raised in Englewood, so I remember the businesses that were there when I was a child and the ones that left. For so long there hasn’t been anything in the community to be excited about. I believe Starbucks will change the community for the better in several ways. It says a lot that a Fortune 500 company is willing to invest in Englewood. And it’s not every day a 16-year-old kid can say, “Because I work at Starbucks I’ve learned about customer service; I’ve learned about management; I’ve learned about stock.” The training that we’ll provide is quality and that will make all the difference in so many lives. They can take those experiences and one day open their own businesses. In the future, I want to open my own restaurant in Englewood, and Starbucks is teaching me so much about how to interact with people and learn about business.
Kayla James, 1-week partner, barista
What I like most about the new Starbucks in Englewood is that people who come into the store are going to see a lot of familiar faces. They’re going to see baristas who are from the community, serving the community and I think that’s great. I hope that the training we’re able to offer in the store will give young people some positivity in their lives because they need it. Sometimes it feels like a lot of people have given up, but they can accomplish their dreams. While I’m working at Starbucks, I’m also studying computer science and I like the challenge of writing code.
Candace Hodges, 3-year partner, barista trainer
I’ve been a Starbucks customer for a long time and I love working here because the company invests in me and in the community as a whole. I’m on the verge of becoming a shift supervisor and I see myself staying with the company for a while. I’m happy that I’m going to be working in the first Starbucks in Englewood. My grandma and cousins grew up in Englewood, and while there’s crime in every area, their community is definitely in need of a little support and something positive. I think people will not only love the coffee, but they’re going to benefit from the training. It will give young people good experience and maybe a better start than they would have gotten otherwise.
Marcia Burgess, 3-year partner, shift supervisor
When I was looking for a job, I researched companies that offered great benefits to their employees and Starbucks came out on top. Now that I’m here, I realize the potential Starbucks offers for my career and I don’t plan on going anywhere else. I want to move up, learn, grow and have a journey with Starbucks and my partners. It means everything to me that I’m going to be working in the store in Englewood, because we need something like this; we need something to motivate the community. Starbucks is making a statement by opening in this community. I grew up in the Englewood area, and the South Side of Chicago. It can only get better by providing jobs and opportunity, as well as being a community place they can go.
Briana Davis, 1-year, barista trainer
I had a friend who worked for Starbucks who told me about SCAP (the Starbucks College Achievement Plan) and stock in the company and all the other things the company does. Now that I’m a partner, I think she didn’t tell me enough – it’s amazing how much Starbucks does for its people and the communities it serves. There’s a list of things that we do that you can’t find anywhere else. When I first heard Starbucks was opening in Englewood I thought it was a joke – I’m not going to lie. I’m born and raised in Englewood and I thought, “This is not going to work.” Then I started thinking about the people I’ve lost in Englewood and I thought, “Why not? Why can’t Starbucks make a difference here?” It takes courage to stand up and make a difference. That’s our thing now – not being a bystander; being an upstander. I’m totally on board thinking Starbucks is going to change Englewood. Our partners are going to improve this community and I can’t wait.
Cortney Shorter, 14-month partner, barista
I came to Starbucks to develop myself. I knew with Starbucks I could develop a better work ethic and that would help me be positive about my future. I’ve learned you are the one person who can start a movement and have that create something bigger, like what we’re going to do in Englewood. I grew up not far from Englewood and lost a lot of people in the older generation of my family to gunfire. I want better things for the younger generation and for myself. I want to become an entrepreneur and open a business someday. I also want to get a master’s degree, my PhD and be memorable. You’ve been given a life and you need to make something of it.
Brittany Cousins, 1-year partner, barista
I was in a rough place in my life and Starbucks was a blessing. I heard about the hiring event (Opportunity Fair and Forum) and did a mock interview, but my hopes weren’t very high. I was in disbelief and shock when I found out I was hired and ever since then I’ve kept learning about how to communicate better, how to interact with people in a variety of situations. Starbucks was a turning point for me and now I view the world differently – everything is not negative. I didn’t even know about Starbucks until two years ago when I walked into a store for the first time. I felt so welcome. I never forgot that feeling. Now I want to make sure other people have that feeling when they walk into our Englewood store. It means everything to me that Starbucks is opening in the community where I grew up.
Renée Taylor, 6-year partner, barista
When I was a young girl in college, I heard about a cool new coffee place called Starbucks where the environment was inviting and everyone enjoyed what they were doing. I’ve been working there ever since, although I took a break for several years when I had my children. Before I left, I had great relationships with our regular customers and in fact one of my customers is the godmother of one of my daughters. Now I have three girls who I’m raising and I want to make sure they know that every step they take has to be a step toward something positive. I’m happy to be back with Starbucks because I believe in this company so much it just works for me – the way we connect with customers. I think about how many customers we’ve changed their lives just from a conversation or two. There’s just something magical that works.
Candice McClinton, 2-year partner, barista
It means a lot that I’ll work in the new store because I was born and raised in Englewood. There aren’t any cute little coffee shops in Englewood. There are just corner stores and gas stations, so it feels like an empty place sometimes. I’m looking forward to seeing the change we’ll have on the area. It might be the start of more businesses moving in. I want to stay with Starbucks and achieve with no limits. Teamwork does definitely make the dream work. I’ve learned that in my two years with Starbucks and I’ve also learned that our customers really do rely on us to get their days off to a great start. I like having a positive effect on another person. Starbucks helps you see the qualities you have in yourself. I think it’ll do the same for the community that it does for individuals who work there.
LaEasha Johnson, 2-week partner, barista
I’ve always wanted to work at Starbucks. It’s a good team environment and they treat me like family at Oak & Rush. It’ll be interesting to go from a store in Chicago’s North Side to south Chicago. I was born and raised in Englewood at a time when there were a lot of places to shop at 63rd and Halsted. When businesses started getting torn down it brought the whole community down – crime increased and people generally began to feel more negative. We need to turn things around. Starbucks and Whole Foods (Whole Foods Market opens in the same shopping complex as Starbucks on September 28) will be a good start.
Ivory Renfro, 2-year partner, shift supervisor
I’ve worked in other places and I can say for certain nothing compares to Starbucks. There’s so much more to the company that people don’t see. It helps you figure out your strengths and you learn more about who you really are as an individual when you talk to customers. Working at Starbucks has opened my eyes to realize the customer service skills I have and am continuing to develop. The benefits are at the top. I think knowing how Starbucks represents itself and how much respect we give to others, that’s going to rub off on the community of Englewood. It’s not going to be an overnight change but it’s a start and Englewood needs help right now. Starbucks will take them there. It’ll give people something to smile and look forward to.
Hagar Johnson, 1-year partner, shift supervisor
I’m excited about working in a store that’s in an overlooked area. Bigger companies don’t even try to open in places like Englewood. I’ve been asked by a few people, “Why would you open there?” and I’m just as quick to respond, “Why not?” Who knows, in two years more businesses might want to come and Starbucks will bring out the best in everybody. It’s certainly brought out the best in me. When I moved to Chicago from Georgia, I applied to 80 or 90 places and not one person called me back. I went to the 100,000 Opportunities Hiring Fair and connected on the spot with Starbucks and felt like everybody I met was more family-oriented. I’ve been here for a year and I want to keep going.
Jakhalia Borner, 2-week partner, barista
I grew up on the North Side and I don’t know much about south Chicago that’s positive. But I do know about overcoming challenges. My mother is from Jamaica and she speaks very little English. Because her options were limited, I want to live my momma’s dream – the American dream. Everything I do is for her. She’s instilled in me that I need to take education seriously, so I’m pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business. I just want to grow with Starbucks and take advantage of every opportunity before me.
Jerome Macon, 3-week partner, barista
We are trying to build the community in Englewood and I’m proud to be a part of it. I grew up in Englewood and was raised by my grandma. I’ll admit I didn’t always listen to her as a child but there are times when I wished I would have. I’ve seen what happens when you hang out with the wrong crowd and I don’t want that for my life anymore. The streets aren’t going to leave you with love like your family will. Now I’m on the right track. I’m taking care of my grandma and am looking into the requirements to become a firefighter.
Rob Green Jr., 15-month partner, shift supervisor
My parents live about two blocks away from the Englewood store. I’ve seen the violence there first hand. I’ve lost friends. I lost a friend four blocks away from exactly where we’re putting this new Starbucks. I remember the late ‘90s and early 2000 when they started tearing down what was the business district. Land developers bought it and put a school there, but the business district never came back. I think Starbucks can realistically bring back the community to a place where it’s a little more peaceful. It starts with caring for every customer who walks through our door. We’ll begin to make a difference one person at a time.