Signs of the times: One customer’s creative way to connect

Weeks into quarantine, the unexpected appearance of a “Now Open” sign at her beloved neighborhood Starbucks restored a new sense of normal and hope to one Chicago woman – and it inspired her to make some signs of her own.

CHICAGO – Six months ago, if you would have told Jackie Golab a simple sign in the window of her “favorite Starbucks in the world” would make her cry with happiness, she probably wouldn’t have believed you.

But little things mean a lot right now, including little things like the words “now open.” Like many people in the world, as the days in quarantine stretched into weeks, Jackie Golab’s daily world felt smaller and smaller with the canceling of each activity and the closing of each business in her neighborhood, including her “favorite Starbucks in the world,” which is “exactly .43 miles away” from where she lives.

“There are so many people who are infinitely worse off than I am. I’m blessed in a lot of regards,” Jackie said. “But my tiny little world, my routine – I couldn’t do anything. Every day that went by it was something else.”

She thought often about how fortunate she is, and how she needed to roll with the punches. She fashioned a mask from a stylish scarf (one that matched her sunglasses). But still, as she walked out to purchase supplies from the drug store for a virtual Easter event to replace a cancelled in-person celebration, she couldn’t help but be a little bummed about the state of things. And that’s when she saw the sign.

“I see this huge ‘now open’ sign. I never expected it,” Jackie said.

The store had opened for mobile order and doorway pick-up, but Jackie didn’t yet have the Starbucks Rewards Mobile App so she couldn’t order her regular venti Jade Citrus Mint Green Tea. Still, she was so excited, she ran back to her office at the church where she works part-time, grabbed a piece of paper and a marker, and made her own sign. It read, “I’m so happy to see all of you. I missed you. I love you. Here’s my virtual hug.”

She walked back to the store and held her sign up to the window for the Starbucks partners to see. They took pictures and everyone laughed and it was all so wonderful that Jackie decided to return the next day with another sign. And this time, she would download the app so she could order her regular drink as well. This went on until she created her final sign, her pièce de résistance – a large cardboard sign adorned with marshmallow bunnies wishing all of her “Starbucks Peeps” a happy Easter.

“We’re so cautious and nervous, everyone’s just fatigued,” Jackie said. “That one little now open sign – it created a new sense of normal for me.”

-- by Jennifer Warnick