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Two years and six months. 971 days. Roughly 23,304 hours. That is how long I have been working for one of the largest coffee companies in the world. Over the past two and a half years I have learned many things about Starbucks.

I have learned how the licensed stores operate separately from the corporate stores and how the consistency in coffee craft is an expectation no matter where you consume a cup of joe. I have learned that customers are the number one priority and that coffee craft is close behind.

When I first started my journey with Starbucks it was at the location on Northern Arizona University’s north campus—probably one of the busiest stores I personally have ever seen. NAU has two locations on each end of campus.

The coolest part about these stores as a consumer is that students can enjoy the products by using their meal plan. This is also a nightmare for baristas. Every student can use a transfer (one meal) to purchase a grande (medium) drink and a single pastry item. Students are also able to use their dining dollars, which are dollars that can be spent on any non-transfer item. For example, at Starbucks specifically, students can use it for merchandise like reusable cups or on hot breakfast and lunch items.

Although I did enjoy my time at the campus store, I feel like my current store, the Milton location, is achieving all my coffee dreams. The hardest part about working on campus is that it’s hard to make connections with customers. The number one reason for this being everyone is in a rush on campus. Students are on a time crunch to get to class and baristas are stressed trying to get the lines to go down.

At the Milton Starbucks, I have cultivated strong relationships with those I see day in and day out. I have memorized a surplus of custom orders and, more than anything, I have the opportunity to truly indulge in my coffee craft. My priority is no longer to get coffee out as quickly as possible. It’s to make a tasty cup of coffee while asking my regular how their day is going.

Another upside to working for a corporate-operated location is the training I’ve received has been nothing short of necessary and impactful.

After racial profiling took place at a Philadelphia location in April 2018, the company developed a new training—we call it the Third Place. The Third Place is essentially an environment that baristas, customers and managers help create. As Starbucks has stated, “This policy is intended to help maintain the third place environment in alignment with our mission ‘to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.’”

This is a policy I think should be implemented in every business. Every business should strive to create a place of warmth and belonging on top of making a sale. So often those of us in the customer service business are blinded by the sales numbers we forget what our purpose is: to serve others.

This mentality to serve others and create a more welcoming and warm environment is what I think the Starbucks I used to call home is striving for. The store on north campus won’t open back up until mid-August. During this time, the store will be freshening up its look with new walls, countertops, cabinets, tables and chairs. It will also remove one of the espresso machines to make room for a cold brew tap, which will allow baristas to serve traditional cold brew as well as the new company favorite, nitro cold brew.

Mid-August should give you a small window before the semester begins and students populate every corner of the store to go in and experience the new environment.

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Bailey Helton is the editor-in-chief at The Lumberjack, Northern Arizona University's student newspaper. College Chronicles aims to connect Flag Live! readers to various aspects of campus life.

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