Starbucks launches national diversity initiative in Ferguson

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Starbucks is launching a new initiative to partner with local minority-owned suppliers to set up locations in lower- and middle-income areas, starting with Ferguson, Missouri.

The Ferguson location will partner with some of the local businesses that were looted or vandalized during the protests that swept the area following the death of Michael Brown and the announcement that Officer Darren Wilson would not be charged in his death. One such partner is Natalie Dubose, owner of Natalie’s Cakes and More. Now, her “signature caramel cakes” are being sold at several Starbucks locations.

“It was this time last year that we were cleaning up glass and cleaning up debris on the strip of South Florissant Road,” Dubose said. “It was a lot of tears that day, but at the same time it was a lot of love shown that day.”

Rodney Hines, Starbucks Community Investment Retail Operations partner, is leading the initiative. Hines hopes that, with Starbucks’ commitment to the community and new push for local partnerships, “that’s really going to help address the opportunity divide that exists within Ferguson and beyond.”

In addition to the community partnerships, the new Ferguson location has something entirely unique to offer: job training opportunities.

“It’s a program we’ll be offering up with a local nonprofit and offering customer-service training,” said Hines. “That’s a skillset we think you can take to Starbucks or anywhere.”

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III thanked Starbucks for recognizing the need to invest in communities.

“With all the things we’ve learned over the past year, I think it’s important that we realize that both our urban communities and our suburban inner-ring communities need investment,” Knowles said. “They need economic development.”