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Zara Castany / Senior Staff Photographer

A Harlem Starbucks is working with a local nonprofit on job training and other projects. At the coffeeshop, people post their dreams on a chalk board explaining the partnership.

It's been just under four months since a Harlem Starbucks and the nonprofit Abyssinian Development Corporation announced they would work together to create positive change in Harlem, but the partnership has been slow to get started.

Starbucks and the Harlem-based ADC said in October that they would collaborate to give Harlem residents business training and to work on community service initiatives, with Starbucks agreeing to donate 5 cents of every purchase to ADC up to at least $100,000 in the first year.

Touted as a jobs creation and community involvement program, the "Store Partnership Model" between ADC and the Starbucks at Lenox Avenue and 125th Street has been underway for almost four months, but the results so far are unclear. The Starbucks location opened in 1999 as the first Starbucks in historic Harlem.

ADC spokesperson Harris Bostic II said the Starbucks is meant to act as a "hub" for finding out information about ADC's programs. He said ADC has started holding orientation sessions with Starbucks and other partner organizations to tell them about the programs ADC offers.

"Not only can we offer those programs to the partners themselves, but also to the customers," Bostic said. "We look at the partners and employees as somewhat extensions of us because they will have to convey information to the customers if they ask if ADC can help them find a job, or ask about the community board."

"It has been going extremely well," Bostic added. "They are becoming part of the Abyssinan Development Corp. family. They have been supporting our education work, we have been supporting their create-jobs program."

The original press release announcing the partnership said Starbucks would "increase local awareness and engage local residents, share our business expertise with them [and] provide strategic technical and management assistance, join together on community service imperatives and work with the organizations to plan unique ways Starbucks can support their jobs training and placement work." It also said the partnership would focus on after-school programs and offer job training and management assistance at the Starbucks.

So far, ADC's only visibile mark on the store is a chalkboard, called the "community board," which features fliers about ADC's many services—including tech-free tax preparation services and GED programs—set against a mural of Harlem. Many customers in the Starbucks were not aware of this partnership, including Harlem resident and musician Cush Lundy.

"I didn't know they had something here with the Abyssinian Church," Lundy said. "That's the first time I heard about Starbucks getting involved in the community. They're not publicizing enough, but I think that's a cool thing."

A spokesperson for the Starbucks-ADC collaboration declined to comment. [UPDATE: See below for a statement submitted after this article went to print.]

Starbucks manager Andy Hambrick said he was "curious to see what's happening" with the partnership in the next few months. ADC is planning several events, including a career fair in mid-March for students pursuing GEDs, for which Starbucks, as a corporate sponsor, will conduct mock interviews. Starbucks will also host barista training information sessions at several church schools over the next few months, although the dates are still uncertain.

"We've asked people, what did you think the partnership would look like," Bostic said. "People said new building, larger store, schools built, and we take that information. But the partnership's really to support the work we have been doing and we will continue to do. We will use the resources and exposure and popularity of Starbucks to get that message to wider audiences."

"For some people, that's disappointing because they want to see something capital, something physical, they want to see an increase of something," Bostic added. "But we're increasing in ways they don't realize. They take that coffee cup and walk into the neighborhood. We're monitoring it, we're getting feedback."

Bostic added that he believes the partnership with ADC has already brought more customers to the store.

"We don't have quantitative data, but anecdotally there has been an uptick in sales and transactions in that store," he said.

Hambrick agreed with Bostic that there had been a slight increase in business.

"We've seen an uptick over the weekends from people coming from the services," he said. "Abyssinian keeps it fresh in their heads."

daphne.chen@columbiaspectator.com

After publication, a Starbucks spokesperson responded with this statement: "Our store at 125th Street and Lenox represents an innovative new approach to helping serve the communities where we do business, with a focus on promoting shared growth. We have a deep history of engagement in the Harlem community, and through our partnership with Abyssinian Development Corporation, this store is helping to fund programs with a track record for success in helping this community to thrive. Although it's still in the early stages, the feedback we've received on this new store concept from our store partners (employees), the community, and from Abyssinian has been very positive."

Starbucks Jobs ADC Abyssinian Development Corporation
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