Starbucks Opened Today in the Fat Albert Building on the Bushwick and Bed-Stuy Border

Kevin Pinner


Starbucks opened inside the iconic Fat Albert building on the Bushwick and Bed-Stuy border today.

The new Starbucks at 774 Broadway is the tenth store that the coffee chain has opened in what it calls “underserved communities” across the US. Starbucks began opening cafes in such neighborhoods two years ago, and it aims to have 95 percent of its staff come from the communities in which those cafes are located.

Like its Bushwick neighbor, Bed-Stuy has also been rapidly gentrifying over the last 15 years. According to census data, the neighborhood’s white population jumped from 2.4 to 15 percent between 2000 and 2010. The median price for a home has also skyrocketed in recent years, from $575,000 in 2013 to $890,000 in 2015. Before these changes, the neighborhood constituted the second-largest African-American community in the city behind Harlem. 

At a preview event at the Fat Albert location on Thursday, Rodney Hines, director of U.S. Social Impact at Starbucks, said his company initiated their engagement of the Bed-Stuy and Bushwick community by hiring an African-American-owned general contractor, Stams Construction Corporation, to build out the new location.

“With all of these stores, we start there: by having women or minority-owned general contractors,” Hines said.

In terms of providing ongoing employment opportunities for locals, Hines said they’ve hired a staff of 17 to open the new store.

“Some of them [employees] had traveled up to an hour to work at Starbucks, but they live within a five- or ten-minute walk of here. So it’s a blend of people who have been with us and people we’ve hired. But 95 percent of them are from this community,” Hines said.

The new Starbucks is looking into having pop-ups in the store as a way to support local, small businesses and give them visibility. The coffee giant has also partnered with the Hope Program — an NGO that provides job training to people in underserved communities — to allocate training for customer service positions to job seekers in the area, using a designated area within the Starbucks as a meeting area.

Kymm Williams, co-owner of Bushwick Grind, a coffee shop a few blocks away that’s been in the area for three years, said she’s cautiously optimistic about Starbucks moving in. A fourth generation Bushwick native, she also employs a staff of people who live in the area.

“When I first heard, I’m not going to lie —  we’re like a baby in the business, and a coffee shop as well —  so we had some concerns. It kind of felt like a David and Goliath type situation,” said Williams, noting that the news carries some positives for her business as well.

“Starbucks seeing value in the area is very hopeful for us because it shows how the area is growing and changing,” Williams said. “You know, when we first came in, it was very transient. People were just here to work and shop. Now it’s becoming much more residential. And we love that.”

Williams hopes the store’s opening might bring more coffee drinkers to the area in general. For now, the biggest challenge facing her business isn’t a lack of customers —  it’s space. Bushwick Grind occupies 500 square feet compared to the 2,500 that the new Starbucks has.

Williams got a concrete business opportunity from the new cafe: catering an employee lunch for about 70 people.

“Everyone was very nice, very inviting,” said Williams. “That just gives us optimism that there’s another line of business there, right? We have a full kitchen. We do lunch. I know that they’re going to be training locally — so who knows? Maybe we get the opportunity to hire baristas that have gone through some of their training.”

For now, Bushwick Grind is working to lease some space at an empty lot next to their cafe at 63 Whipple St. and open an outdoor area to expand. Concerning the gentrification issue affecting Bushwick and Bed-Stuy, Williams likes to keep both sides of the story in mind.

“I know people have opinions about this area rapidly gentrifying. And we hear people’s opinions. But again, there’s always two views of how that can go,” said Williams.

Cover image from the Bushwick Daily archives

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