Starbucks will be opening new store locations in low-income and underprivileged communities across the country — starting in Ferguson, Missouri. The new branch will be located just steps away from where protests broke out after unarmed black teen Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed by a police officer last summer. His death ignited a nationwide movement challenging policing tactics in communities of color.
The announcement is part of a strategy to open 15 stores in diverse and underrepresented communities, targeting low- to medium-income neighborhoods across the country. The global coffee chain has previously announced plans to hire 10,000 young people ages 16 to 24, building on an initiative to hire 100,000 so-called "opportunity youth" by 2018.
"We have a long history of developing stores in diverse neighborhoods and we hope to do even more — together with the community — to bring great jobs, engage young people and drive economic opportunity for all," Blair Taylor, chief community officers for Starbucks, said in a statement. "We want to be part of the solution in these communities and help create a sustainable future for those who may be looking for a second chance."
At least five stores are expected to open up in 2016. In addition to Ferguson, Starbucks will open up locations in South Chicago, Milwaukee, Phoenix and Jamaica, Queens.
The stores are intended to be more than just the typical coffee shop. There will be onsite training space designed to teach prospective employees about retail and customer service and be open to local youth organizations.
The new initiative comes after the Seattle-based coffee company was embroiled in controversy last spring for a campaign that attempted to address complex and complicated issues of race by having baristas write "Race Together" on coffee cups in order to start a conversation. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz later scaled back the initiative in the face of critics who called the outreach efforts out of touch.