Starbucks show commitment to armed forces with new Richmond Highway store

Starbucks show commitment to armed forces with new Richmond Highway store

By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)

Fort Belvoir on U.S. Route 1 and around 12 miles south of the Pentagon, one of the newest Starbucks locations in the area has a distinctly military feel. The Seattle-based coffee giants have designated it as its fourth Military Family Store in the country.

The new branch, located at 7511 Richmond Highway, was dedicated last week by representatives of the company, with a number of the store’s employees present as well. It is part of Starbucks’ commitment to hire at least 10,000 veterans and military spouses by 2018; since November 2013, officials said they already have hired more than 4,000.

Starbucks’ first Military Family Store in the United States was near Fort Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif., in February, and the company says the effort is indicative of their commitment to supporting those in the military and their families.

“We’ve seen the value in the talent that veterans and military spouses bring,” said Mick James, Starbucks’ manager of veteran and military affairs. “Even though it was alive and well in the organization, we wanted to go further than that and so the leadership advocacy we’ve received has just been tremendous. That’s what led us to make the commitment in November 2013.

“The reason it’s essential is that Starbucks is a community hub. That allows us to not only engage within the community, but when we’re part of a military community like this, and much of our clientele and customers are either in uniform or support those who are, it’s a tremendous opportunity to make a public statement and commitment here in the community. This local team is the one that’s going to make it happen.”

That idea of Starbucks being a community hub for the military and their families is an extension of what the company already does, envisioning itself as the so-called “third place” after an individual’s home and workplace. Company officials believe active duty and retired military and their families will appreciate the new store and the effort to gear it towards their needs.

“I think a lot of it is it’s a recognition of what we’ve done, of having served and having done something different than most other people,” said Brian Harper, a Starbucks store manager in the Mount Vernon Square Shopping Center. “This is kind of a place where we can go and run into other veterans that speak the same language, if you will. We all know the same things, same customs and courtesies that have been ingrained in us that you may not find in other places.”

“As Starbucks is, to a lot of folks, it’s a place for people to meet and connect with folks, a very warm, inviting atmosphere,” said Matt Sorrentino, a Starbucks district manager responsible for stores on U.S. Route 1 as well as in Burke, Lorton and Springfield. “People have meetings here, do job interviews, first dates and whatnot.

“For the military, it provides a safe environment for a lot of our military that’s decommissioning and transitioning into civilian life to meet in a safe environment and have those conversations either with the partners here or with organizations to talk about life after the military and what their opportunities are. We just are the liaison, the meeting ground as it were, and we’re happy in that role to facilitate that conversation and make sure it’s continuing.”

The dedication of the store represents the commencement of a partnership with the Fredericksburg chapter of Team Red, White and Blue, a nonprofit dedicated to helping military personnel transition to civilian life after leaving the armed forces. They see this new Starbucks as an ideal way to continue that work.

“Anything to help out veterans is great,” said Andy Sampson, community director of the Fredericksburg chapter. “It’s something that we strive to do on a regular basis and other organizations that have the same mission in mind, it’s a win-win for us.”

As part of the store dedication, several veteran and military spouse employees received patriotic-themed Starbucks aprons. The aprons, which are available as standard company dress, indicate which branch of the military the employee is affiliated with and how. One of those recipients was Jordon Dean, a military spouse who has worked at Starbucks in California and now on Richmond Highway while his wife Briana is in the U.S. Army. He said that it is heartening to work for a company that has such a commitment to the military and their families.

“I’ve only been a military spouse two years, but it really is like a family, like a community,” he said. “They really look out for each other. To be part of a company that makes actual stores to support veterans, it shows that Starbucks is a company that really doesn’t just say they’re going to do things — they actually back it up. When it starts coming out of their pocket, that’s when you know they’re really trying to do something good.”

Officials believe the new store can grow into an important space for the community given its military focus, especially with the sheer number of personnel in the area.

“I think every activity counts,” said Camille Hymes, Starbucks’ regional vice president of operations in the Mid-Atlantic. “If there’s a way we can genuinely connect and support even one family, it means a lot. It means a lot for our partners to be able to support, and for the military family they genuinely appreciate the support. Hopefully we’ll do many, many activities and many, many programs that support our military families. I think just one counts, anything we can do we’re happy to do it.”