By Madina Toure
Starbucks held a preview opening for its new store in Jamaica Monday, the first of at least 15 stores that will open throughout the United States to hire and train youth in diverse and urban communities. The store will officially open Tuesday at 6 a.m.
The store at 89-02 Sutphin Blvd. includes an onsite classroom space available to local nonprofit organizations to provide job training and skills building programs for young people in the area.
It is part of the chain’s goal of hiring 10,000 opportunity youth, 16- to 24-year-old individuals who are not in school and not employed.
“I was born and raised in Jamaica and I feel connected to this place,” said Alisha Wrencher, the store manager, who has worked for Starbucks for 18 years. “I know how much this store can do to create a brighter future for our opportunity youth and am honored that Starbucks chose me to lead this new store.”
Borough President Katz, who has launched the Jamaica Now Action Plan to revitalize Jamaica, praised the selection of the borough as the beta site.
“We understand that this is a prototype for the rest of the nation, but just to be clear: it started in Queens,” Katz said, her words met with applause from the crowd.
Starbucks has partnered with the Queens Connect’s Queens Community House and YMCA’s Y Roads Centers, which will be utilizing a dedicated training space within the store specially created by the Starbucks design studio.
The Jamaica store is the first in a nationwide initiative Starbucks announced last year to deepen investments in at least 15 similar U.S. communities by 2018 by opening stores with the goal of creating new jobs and engaging local women and minority-owned and vendors and suppliers.
The Jamaica store has 17 employees ranging in age from 16 to 36 who hail from Brooklyn, parts of Queens and Jamaica in the Caribbean. The next location will be in the West Florissant neighborhood of Ferguson, Mo.
“One of the things that we’ve learned over the time is that we can’t do it alone,” said Rodney Hines, director of community investments for Starbucks retail operations.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour