A sure sign of a changing neighborhood is the arrival of a Starbucks.
The Seattle-based coffee giant, a benchmark of gentrification in cities, has cultivated a reputation for selling 4 $ 4 lattes to the bourgeoisie, a luxury that is not worth the money for the proletarian class.
To be more socially responsible, Starbucks said Thursday that it is expanding its efforts to set up more coffee shops and create more jobs in poor neighborhoods.
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Brett Theodos, a member of the Urban Institute studying economic development, said he visited Starbucks community stores in Chicago and Baltimore, and that they seemed to be providing a service and, more importantly, jobs, that those income neighborhoods would not have another thing.
"I can't think of a retailer, especially one that has more than one discretionary, high-level purchase, that is willing to enter neighborhoods and markets that have less purchasing power," said Theodos. "Starbucks usually appears when a neighborhood has the purchasing power to support it."
He also applauded Starbucks' plan to add community rooms in stores, since low-income neighborhoods often don't have many places to meet.
But he thinks the impact will be limited. A Starbucks store will not make a neighborhood gentrify, he said.
Starbucks plans to open or remodel 85 stores in rural and urban communities in the United States by 2025.
Each store will hire local staff, including construction teams and artists, and will have spaces for community events. The company will also work with local United Way chapters to develop programs in each store, such as job training classes for youth and tutoring.
The effort will raise the number of "community stores" that Starbucks has opened since announcing the program in 2015 to 100.
Starbucks said that most of the 85 stores will be new, while some will be existing stores that have been remodeled. The company will consider several factors, including youth unemployment rates and low household income, when deciding where to build them, and will give priority to economically affected areas.
"All these programs are intended to be useful and profitable," said John Kelly, executive vice president of public affairs and social impact for Starbucks.
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Starbucks opened its first community store in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2016, two years after the riots that erupted from the shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old black man by a white police officer.
Since then he has added 13 more locations, including stores in Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans and Jonesboro, Georgia. Another will open this spring in Prince George's County, Maryland. Starbucks estimates that stores have created more than 300 jobs.
Kelly said the stores reflect Starbucks' core belief in responsible capitalism. Coffee shops are profitable, he said, and have the same menu as regular Starbucks stores.
Prices vary, but not by much.
A large coffee with coconut milk in Ferguson costs $ 4.95, according to the Starbucks application. Six miles away, a Starbucks in University City charges $ 5.25 for the same drink. In Jonesboro, a large coffee costs $ 2.25. It costs $ 2.45 in a Starbucks in downtown Atlanta.
“This is not charity. These are successful stores, "Kelly said, acknowledging the skepticism of the neighbors." We are challenging many of the stereotypes, and we are proud to do so. "
A man who walked the Starbucks in Jonesboro and gave the Associated Press his name when Leroy Z said he is glad Starbucks is giving the locals another option to drink coffee beyond fast-food restaurants in the city . But he was skeptical about how much Starbucks cares about the community and how much the store will strengthen the local economy.
"They wouldn't be here if they didn't think they could make money," he said. "They are here because it is a major drag for Atlanta."
Englewood resident Princess Thomas, 60, sometimes frequents the Starbucks in the Englewood neighborhood on the south side of Chicago.
Thomas said he appreciates Starbucks employing local residents, but he hopes his community support goes beyond "lip service."
“Many people in this area have their benefits reduced. They cannot afford to feed their families. So, when you say you're doing something for the community, what can you do for those people, instead of just seeing them as customers? ", Said.
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Thomas Shinick, a business professor at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, said he would prefer that manufacturing companies or trade schools establish stores in troubled areas so that young people could learn skills beyond the service industry .
"We don't need more coffee servers," he said.
Associated Press contributed to this report.