3.08.2011

project 52 continues

Project 52, week 45 (Side note: I am so far behind that it's slightly ridiculous.)
project 52, week 45

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.
He rocks.
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.

3 comments:

Rosanna said...

Love this post. I read Howard's book too, and I've always respected Starbucks and loved the "third place" idea. And the "little people" supporters need to remember that S-bux *was* a "little person"... and were super-successful at it.

Also, I have that visor somewhere. :D

fleur_delicious said...

aw, shucks! I live in Seattle and I can't help but feel a bit cheery-warm with your love for one of our local success-stories. People here are really torn about S-bux. Some hate it, but as you say, you can't deny that S-bux MADE coffee in this country. And though on weekends we trip over to a local cafe whose small-batch coffee we prefer, I totally drink S-bux at least once a week. And when I'm out of the PacNW, I love knowing that if I can find an S-bux, I can find a good cup of coffee (Sbux was a lifesaver when we lived in Santa Barbara, where sulf culture rules, the smoothies are amazing, and the local roasting company smelled like smoke because they burnt their beans every morning. ick!)

{lauryl} said...

I'll admit that I've never had a *good* cup of coffee at Starbucks. It's damn good for frappucinos and other desserty drinks, but coffee... well, let's just say I'll always try the local place first. But no one can deny that Starbucks created the coffee culture in the U.S., and I for one am very grateful for that. When I was in the first couple years of owning my own business, before I was comfortable having clients come to my home for consultations, Starbucks was my go-to meeting place, because even if I didn't know the neighborhood, I could always find a Starbucks with WiFi. I also applied for and was offered a job at Starbucks as a barista back in 2009 when the economy was crudy and I wasn't doing too well financially, but I was appalled at the hourly rate I was offered. It was barely over minimum wage, less than I used to make babysitting in the midwest, and definitely not live-off-able here in L.A. Obviously I turned down the job, but that left a bitter taste in my mouth. ;-( But it sounds like you've had an incredible experience, and I fully support any company that is flexible and allows people to earn an income but still be able to do their creative work. So Happy 40th, Starbucks! (PS the cover story in USA Today last week was pretty incredible)