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Starbucks Family Stores Focus on Vet Hiring, Community Connection

Dedication of Starbucks 25th Military Family Store

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- There was a festive atmosphere as employees passed out pieces of cake at a Starbucks right outside the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson gate after a ceremony this month launching the company's 27th "military family" store.

Employees wore the company's familiar green aprons -- but with a twist. Instead of sporting only Starbucks' corporate logo, the aprons were embroidered with the wearers' names and a "spouse" or "veteran" title.

That labeling, Starbucks officials said, is one of the things that helps make military family stores special. The company plans 30 of these locations nationwide, and they are meant to act as a base camp for military community members to intersect with the civilian community.

They also help the corporation get closer to its goal of hiring 10,000 veterans and military spouses by 2018. Along with the Schultz Family Foundation, which was started by Starbucks' founder and works to address veteran challenges, the company hopes to use the stores to bridge the civilian-military divide.

"The military family store is a great talent pool for us, and it's also kind of a learning laboratory, because what we've done with the culture is built [military] understanding throughout the company, through the stores," said Matt Kress, who manages veteran and military affairs for the company. "That's one of the things that distinguishes us as a company that hires military -- the strength of our internal military culture."

Starbucks provides managers with a "military field guide" to help them understand veterans, Kress said, while training new employees on how to make the shift from military life to a retail or corporate environment.

"We've done a lot to prepare our managers, to help them understand the skills, the talent, the job training, how they're used to being led, what their realities are," he said. "With that, it's made a much more successful transition."

Starbucks also offers Guard and Reserve members additional paid time off, up to 80 hours a year, for drill or annual training, Kress said. And those who want to use the company's paid college tuition program, which is available to employees who work 20 or more hours a week, can transfer it to their children or partners, he said.

For spouses who work in the stores, the company's employee transfer program makes PCSing just a little less painful. Although a transfer is not guaranteed, Kress said managers in different locations will work with each other to try to fit a relocating employee into a store in his or her new location.

"We bring people in with the intent of giving them the opportunity to have a career," Kress said.

"You can come in as a barista, and you can work your way up as far as you want to go. We also recognize that a lot of transitioning military members and spouses are still trying to figure out where they want to live, what they want to do," he said. "If we're a shorter career for them, we're OK with that. While we're sorry to see them go, we're happy that they're going out there prepared for the rest of their lives."

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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