LIHUE — Koloa’s Cecilia Lorenz was surprised to find the Starbucks at Kukui Grove Center closed Tuesday afternoon.
When she found out why, she said it was a good move.
“I didn’t know about it, but I think it’s really cool they’re taking a stand to show that type of behavior isn’t OK,” Lorenz said.
“I think it’s honorable, and I think a lot of companies can learn a thing or two from that,” she said. “People could see that if we all come together and had some more ideas and supported each other like that then it could make the world a better place.”
Starbucks Corporation closed more than 8,000 locations across the country on Tuesday afternoon for “racial-bias education” for the staff, which could cost the Seattle-based coffee chain an estimated $12 million in revenue.
Starbucks, mocked three years ago for suggesting employees discuss racial issues with customers, asked workers Tuesday to talk about race with each other.
It was part of the coffee chain’s anti-bias training, created after the arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks six weeks ago. The chain apologized but also took the dramatic step of closing its stores early for the sessions. But still to be seen is whether the training, developed with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and other groups, will prevent another embarrassing incident.
“This is not science, this is human behavior,” said Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz. He called it the first step of many.
The training was personal, asking workers to break into small groups to talk about their experiences with race. According to training materials provided by the company, they were also asked to pair up with a co-worker and list the ways they “are different from each other.” A guidebook reminds people to “listen respectfully” and tells them to stop any conversations that get derailed.
A sign on front of the closed door to the Lihue Starbucks said: “Today our store is reconnecting with our mission and with each other. We are sharing ideas about how to make Starbucks even more welcoming.”
Iris Cassidy of Koloa stopped by the Lihue store to pick up lunch for her co-workers, but she didn’t know when the coffeehouse closure was to going to take place.
“If they’re working together to actually do that, it makes a big difference,” Cassidy said. “It helps people open their eyes a little bit more to what’s really going on.”
“Sometimes what goes on in life is more important than money, and this is a good way of showing it,” she added.
Keahi Kuahiwi of Kapaa was sitting at a table with friends outside the closed store Tuesday and thought maybe the location was closed for remodeling.
“I think it’s a solid business move,” Kuahiwi said. “To state that you’re not racist is a good statement to make too, especially if they mean it.”
He meets at Starbucks frequently with friends and was glad the store left their Wi-Fi connection available.
“I don’t mind that they’re closed and think it’s a good reason actually,” he added.