A long time ago, there was no Starbucks on the Eastern Shore. Not even a hint of one. Not even a Barnes & Noble with a cafe. It's not that no one had *heard* of such a thing, it's just that, around here, the best coffee for your money was at Wawa. Across the bridge it was a different story, of course. But here? Yeah. Cappuccinos were slightly chemical-tasting and poured out of a machine next to the fountain sodas.
About that time-ten years or so ago-I picked up a book called "Pour Your Heart Into It." I knew what Starbucks was, of course, and I'd been there, and I loved the coffee, so I wanted to read the story behind it. Well, I read the book and I fell in love with the idea of Starbucks. This was a company that had virtually created an industry within the US (prior to Starbucks, coffee shops were exclusively the hangouts of college students) by having a single clearly defined goal: create a third place. I LOVED that idea. Immediately, "barista" went onto my list of "jobs I want to have someday, just to say I did."
A lot of stuff happened after that. I worked in Oklahoma for a few years, I traveled with a non-profit for a while, I got married, moved to Ohio, worked in a library (yep, that one was on my list too), traveled a lot, stopping at Starbucks every time. Somewhere along the way I stopped drinking venti Frappucinos (I'm ashamed even now), switched to black coffee, and then changed again to black americanos. I love locally owned coffee shops, but their espresso can be sketchy.
Eventually my husband and I moved back to the Eastern Shore, and I started looking at the help-wanted ads in the paper. I had an interview at the local newspaper, working as support staff in the sales department, and, seeing an opportunity to check something off my life list, I dropped off an application at the local Starbucks. The manager there knew my sisters as VERY regular customers, so he called me in for an interview and called about 4 hours later with a job offer. The next day I got an offer from the newspaper for a full-time, full-benefits position that would start at a third more per hour.
I chose Starbucks. At the time, it seemed like a really silly thing to do, but it made sense to me: I thought that long-term, I could probably be more creative working at Starbucks. (Also: I hate sales, which is what I would have done at the paper.)
At this point I'm probably losing some of you. I know a lot of coffee snobs hate Starbucks, considering their beans over-roasted, their drinks over-priced, and their culture shockingly reminiscent of McDonalds. All of these are valid concerns, I'm sure. But the fact remains: I get health coverage at twenty hours a week, I get a pound of coffee a week, and I own shares in the company. Also? My manager is freaking awesome. Six months after I started, I was promoted to shift supervisor, and after a few months of working 40 hours a week and trying to manage my rapidly exploding photography business, I went to him and tried to quit. There was NO FREAKING WAY I could handle everything. Instead of letting me quit and get rehired in the fall, he arranged for me to work one shift every 30 days over the summer, keeping me active as an employee until wedding season slowed down.
I have the coolest coworkers in the world. I have the most amazing customers ever. I really really love my job, and I've worked for this company for 3.5 years and I still believe in it. Do I think I could beat Howard Schultz on bar? Absolutely. Am I pretty sure that we've seen some craaaazy schemes and will see many more? You betcha. Do I know that there are really bad Starbucks out there? Uh-huh. But I also know that my job, every day, is to "Create inspired moments in each customer's day." I. Love. That.
Happy 40th birthday, Starbucks.