Starbucks has opened its first store in Ferguson, Missouri, as part of a national plan to provide local jobs, create training opportunities for youth, and support efforts to rebuild and revitalize communities. Starbucks plans to open similar stores in at least 15 low- to medium-income communities across the US by 2018. With an estimated 5.5 million young Americans not in school or at work, the majority of whom live in some of the country’s most diverse, yet underserved communities, Starbucks aims to make a long-term impact by opening stores that will help provide a tangible boost to the local economy and bring meaningful jobs.

“We’ve long considered how we can help deliver social impact in ways that drive our business forward,” said Rodney Hines, Starbucks director of community investments for US retail operations.

The city of Ferguson received widespread national attention following protests after the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in August 2014.

As part of its commitment to investing in the community, Starbucks is also working with Natalie DuBose, owner of Ferguson bakery Natalie’s Cakes & More, which suffered extensive damage following the rioting in 2014. In considering ways to invest in the local community, Starbucks is now selling DuBose’s signature caramel cakes at more than 30 St. Louis-area locations and will feature the product in the new store in Ferguson. As a result, DuBose’s workforce has grown from three to more than 20, double what it was when Starbucks broke ground on the Ferguson location in November 2015. DuBose is also heavily involved in the community, speaking regularly about entrepreneurship at local high schools, hiring locally, and sourcing ingredients locally whenever possible. 

Starbucks will work with nonprofit partners like the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis to provide a robust, multi-week job skills training program for local youth, using a specially-designed classroom space within the store. Starbucks hopes to work alongside community partners like the Urban League to help address some of the systemic barriers facing young people in the Ferguson area.

Nationally, 1 in 7 young adults does not work or attend school, a challenge that is compounded in low- to medium-income communities like Ferguson. In the St. Louis region, 14% of young people ages 16-24 – an estimated 48,000 young men and women – are disconnected from jobs and educational opportunities and nearly half of all young African American men in the area are unemployed.

"Ferguson is grateful to Starbucks for recognizing the strength and resilience of our community by choosing to invest here,” said Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III. “The City of Ferguson and the greater North County region have both obstacles to overcome, but also great potential. Starbucks has shown their commitment to this region by helping our young people with much needed job training, as well as their commitment to the greater business community by partnering with local entrepreneurs to deliver great services and products to our citizens. We are excited to welcome Starbucks into the community and look forward to a long and lasting community partnership.”

The Starbucks store, featuring both a café and drive-thru at West Florissant & Somerset in Ferguson, has hired 30 employees, many of whom are from the Ferguson or greater St. Louis areas, including store manager Cordell Lewis. Hiring locally is an important part of the company’s strategy to support economic development and build stronger connections with the community. With benefits like full health care coverage and equity in the form of stock for both part-time and full-time partners, as well as the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, which gives partners the opportunity to get a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University with full tuition reimbursement, Starbucks will provide Ferguson partners with the same opportunities available to partners across the country.

“I was in essence the opportunity youth we are trying to help,” said Lewis, who has already enrolled in online classes at Arizona State University through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. “I come from a single-parent family and was lucky to have a coach who saw a spark in me when I was a high school athlete. That helped me turn my life around. Starbucks opening in this community means the company also sees what Ferguson can become. It has its challenges, and we have to have those conversations, but we also have so many young men and women with a lot to offer, including our new team of partners. My goal is to be their coach, to listen, and to help drive their passions. That’s the type of leader I want to be – for my team and for our community.”