Hultgren gets a taste of work, coffee at local Starbucks gathering
It wasn’t the first time U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren stopped for some Sumatra at Starbucks’ Yorkville location on Bridge Street, but this time, the morning pit stop was for an entirely different reason.
On Friday, Hultgren donned a signature green apron of his own – specially embroidered with his name – and stepped behind the bar to make a few drinks with baristas during the store-sponsored event.
“Behind the Bar” is a program that gets politicians into their local Starbucks to meet with baristas, managers and district managers to talk about the business and issues that affect them and their regions. A handful of company employees – some who drove more than 60 miles to make it to the event – happily spent an hour sharing their stories with the congressman.
But, the morning wasn’t all about business. A coffee tasting made the event a bit sweeter for the Plano-based Republican, who said he loves a good brew.
He slurped, smelled and sipped on a reserve-blend as he met the green-apron-clad crew.
From a district manager who worked her way up with the company over 18 years, to an Air Force veteran who is supporting his family by managing his own Starbucks store, there was no shortage of diversity among the employees in the room.“What are the biggest challenges you all face?” Hultgren asked. “What are you excited about?”
There was talk of Route 47 construction – completed last year – which negatively impacted business at the Yorkville coffee shop.
“Some days it was just crickets in here,” one manager said.
But, the Yorkville crew was happy to talk about some of the ways they’re bouncing back and refocusing after the construction.
The Yorkville shop is one of a handful of local Starbucks now offering wine during the evenings and an expanded food menu including truffle mac and cheese and bacon-wrapped dates. Hultgren said he was pleased to hear about the new local options.
He said he was also happy to hear about the company’s tuition reimbursement program, which has been formed in partnership with Arizona State University.
One Starbucks employee took his time with Hultgren to talk about the tuition program and how it’s changing his life.
The employee said he left a successful career after coming to a crossroads, and decided to head back to school – with Starbucks’ help.
Because he was already raising a family, the employee said the tuition reimbursement aspect of the Starbucks mission makes him happy to come to work in the morning.
“On days that are difficult, I think about some added benefits that Starbucks provides that other [jobs] don’t,” he told Hultgren.
With four children of his own, Hultgren said he knows the struggle of paying for an education.
“How many people go to school just to go to school?” Hultgren said, talking about the number of students who don’t know what they want their futures to look like when they first enroll.
“To be working and going to school is hard, but there’s a greater focus. You’re not doing it to simply check a box. You’re doing it because you see where you’ll be when you finish,” he said.
Besides education, Hultgren also focused on military benefits provided to Starbucks employees who have served their country.
One employee spoke about the benefits Starbucks has afforded him and his other military counterparts in the form of transfers to different states, bases, etc.
“I’m very proud to say I’m here and serving my customers and taking care of business,” the former airman said. “The company has done well helping me.”
Hultgren extended his support to the military man and the rest of the Starbucks staff.
“If we can be helpful to you, to veterans, to anyone, just let us know,” Hultgren said. “We’re excited to see what you’re doing here [at Yorkville Starbucks]. I’m personally supportive, but more than that, I just want to celebrate good things that are happening. Good things that you’re doing. It seems like the media want to pick out negative stuff to push out and focus on. But, I think there’s many positive things happening.”