In the seventh such store Starbucks has opened around the country, it will partner with community organizations such as the YWCA to help young people who aren’t working prepare for jobs either at the company or elsewhere.
The coffeeshop Starbucks is opening Friday in White Center looks in many ways like any other Starbucks store.
But to one side of the store is an area, complete with refrigerator, sink, grinder and brewer, that can be partitioned from the rest and sets this store apart.
It’s intended to be a community space and training area, where young people aged 16 to 24 who are not working or in school can receive training on skills such as résumé writing and customer service, preparing them for jobs at Starbucks and elsewhere.
White Center, with a vibrant, diverse population and a poverty level more than twice as high as King County’s, will be the seventh neighborhood where Starbucks has opened such a store.
The coffee company plans to open 15 nationwide by the end of the year in support of community development in low- to medium-income communities. The stores are intended to provide space for job-skills training, and to help with local economic development by working with local, minority and women-owned contractors and suppliers.
Other locations include Ferguson, Missouri.; Englewood in the South Side of Chicago; and Jamaica in New York City’s Queens borough. All six current locations are profitable, the company said.
At the White Center store, a woman-owned company named Saybr Contractors was hired as general contractor to revamp the interior of the building, at 1520 S.W. 100th St.
The store’s 22 employees live in or near White Center. While most are already Starbucks employees, transferred to the White Center store from other locations, nine are new to the company. For five, this will be their first job.
The YWCA Seattle King Snohomish will be combining its job-skills training program with the coffee company’s, aiming to teach customer-service skills to 100 young people a year.
“The idea is that Starbucks won’t be the only employer hiring those who come through the training,” said Mike Schwartz, director of economic-empowerment services for YWCA Seattle King Snohomish.
The YWCA will also work with Starbucks to build relationships with local businesses that can provide jobs for graduates of the program.
It’s an “injection of needed jobs, resources and support,” said Schwartz. The U.S. Census Bureau put the neighborhood’s poverty rate at 25.6 percent in 2014, compared with King County’s 10.9 percent, he said.
To be sure, there are mixed feelings about Starbucks coming to White Center, with some seeing it — and the Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen next door — as symbolic of the gentrification and displacement in the neighborhood.
And there have been agencies that have long been doing such community development work, including the YWCA.
But some regard the Starbucks commitment as a good opportunity.
“We want to model for the community how we can partner with these bigger, private corporations in a way that makes sense for that community — not just to come in and railroad us with your wonderful coffee,” said Sili Savusa, executive director of the White Center Community Development Association.
Starbucks has to “understand the kind of community that’s in White Center,” Savusa said. The neighborhood is among the most diverse areas in King County, with 60 percent people of color, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
“We’re wanting to hold on to the fabric of White Center and its nuances of being a huge immigrant, refugee population that speaks a variety of languages,” she said.
Toward that end, Savusa has been connecting the local Starbucks leaders with owners of small businesses in the community — Dubsea Coffee, Salvadorean Bakery and Restaurant and Momma Bear’s Fry Bread, for instance — as well as people working on employment issues, from the principal of the local high school to WorkSource employees.
Starbucks, she said, has thus far been “very respectful in their approach.”
The initiative’s intent is to be a “good business partner,” said Rodney Hines, director of U.S. social impact for Starbucks. “They’re not looking for a handout, for charity. They’re looking for us to be a true partner in the development of this community.”