ENGLEWOOD — Starbucks opened its first store in Englewood the same day Whole Foods opened its doors to the community.
The store has joined the grocer in Englewood Square and opened at 5 a.m. Wednesday at 806 W. 63rd St.
The 2,200-square-foot store can seat up to 41 people with a room that will double as a training center and a community room to host poetry nights, group meetings and more.
The store has emphasized hiring in the community, buying from local vendors and featuring local art.
Store manager K.K. Williams — an Englewood resident — will oversee 26 employees, 60 percent of whom live in the neighborhood. The rest are from other South Side neighborhoods.
All company’s employees are referred to as "partners" because they are given stock in the company, store officials said.
For the most part, the coffee shop will have the same menu as other Starbucks, but it will be the first one to carry red velvet brownies from Laine’s Bake Shop's in Morgan Park. Store officials said they are working with owner Rachel Bernier-Green, who lives in the Oakland neighborhood, to get her products in other Starbucks locations in the area.
Starbucks is in Englewood Square plaza. [DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer]
Williams said as an Englewood resident, she welcomes Starbucks to the neighborhood, and its presence is long overdue.
“Nothing was here a few years ago,” Williams said. “Englewood is up-and-coming, and it’s great to hear there are more positive things going on because you never hear that. Anything negative, it’s on the TV.”
Watch the video to learn more about the new Starbucks:
Previously, Williams worked at a Downtown Starbucks. She worked eight years for the company before applying for her first manager job at the Englewood shop.
When she told people she was applying for the position, she said she received a lot of confused and even negative reactions from people who lived outside the community.
It took a month to learn she was chosen for the job.
“It’s exciting, but it hasn’t sunk in yet,” Williams said, adding that because of her lack of managerial experience, she didn’t think she’d get the post. “But they gave it to me. That is exciting. I was shocked.”
On Tuesday, local partners reviewed some potential scenarios before the grand opening.
Starbucks Regional Vice President Dennis Brockman speaks to new Starbucks employees. [DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer]
Starbucks Regional Vice President Dennis Brockman made a special visit to the store to meet with the new partners. Everyone huddled around the counter while he stood behind it asking them questions like, “What do you do if a customer doesn’t like their drink?”
People shouted out answers like “fix them another.”
He then asked what if they drove away, drank a third of it, then brought it back. The answer was still the same.
Another question: What should they do if the line of customers gets really long?
“It’s all about the customer in front of you,” Brockman said. “Be present with that one and never rush them.”
Rodney Hines, director of community investments and operations, said Starbucks is excited about opening its first store in Englewood.
“This is an exciting endeavor for us because we know that Englewood Square is returning this piece of land to something that had existed years ago, that was a vital commercial district for this community,” he said.
Hines said that what developer Leon Walker, Starbucks, Whole Foods and the other retailers are doing is setting an example for other communities on how to revitalize a blighted community.
“We’re one example, one demonstration of what can happen to help revitalize communities like this,” Hines said. “My desire is that others across Chicago, and in other cities see this as a model, and see this as a calling, as a need that we all need to be doing similar efforts.”
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