Long Beach’s newest Starbucks is brewing up more than coffee.

As part of a company initiative to support economic development and provide employment and job training to those in underserved communities, Starbucks has opened a distinctive store model at the corner of Long Beach Boulevard and Willow Street.

The first of its kind in California and one of six built around the country, the new Starbucks in the Sixth District’s Wrigley neighborhood is a coffeehouse and classroom, designed specifically to provide life skills training for area youngsters in partnership with local nonprofits.

“Our intent here is to do good business,” Rodney Hines, social impact director for Starbucks, said during a private grand opening last Thursday. He traveled from the company’s headquarters in Seattle to celebrate the new store at 281 E. Willow St., an expansion of a nearby store that had been in place since 1999.

Hines oversees the opening of stores associated with Starbucks’ Opportunity for Youth program, which the coffee purveyor has announced as an effort to hire 100,000 16- to 24-year-old employees who would otherwise not be working or in school.

Starbucks has selected such sites based on population density and company assessments of whether a given locale’s civic leaders are committed to job training programs.

Sixth District Councilman Dee Andrews was among various city leaders there to show support.

“My motto is, ‘A job will stop a bullet,’” Andrews said. “The Sixth District is strong and you (Starbucks) just made it stronger by putting your mouth and money where it should be… This is so wonderful, so great for our kids.”

Vice Mayor and Ninth District City Councilman Rex Richardson called the new Starbucks an “opportunity café” and said he was thrilled for young people in Long Beach to have additional job opportunities.

Some of the store’s job training programs, and 15 of the 30 store employees, come from a partnership between Starbucks and the nonprofit Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Network. The store officially opened in mid-May.

Store manager Nadine Doremus, a longtime Long Beach resident who has worked at local Starbucks stores for more than 15 years, said she hopes other businesses take note of what Starbucks is doing and realize that they, too, can thrive when opening stores in town.

“As one of our customers just said the other day, ‘Wow, Starbucks has hooked us up,’” Doremus said.

The hiring process for the new store, Doremus said, was an emotional affair, with applicants’ excitement being palpable and their stories compelling since many were struggling to find good-paying jobs. Some are young parents, others are teens who aged out of the foster system, all needed a job, and many were in tears during the celebration or proudly snapping selfies of themselves in their green aprons.

They’re learning life skills and building their resumes, all while pouring hot cups of joe.

Contributing writer Ashleigh Ruhl can be reached at ashleighruhl@gmail.com.

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