Amid Starbucks Profiling Scandal, Local Black-Owned Coffee Shops See Uptick In Visits - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

The Starbucks racial profiling case of Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson has prompted protests, both offline and on social media, as well as a massive push for customers to patronize black-owned local coffee shops.

Nelson and Robinson, both 23-year-old entrepreneurs, walked into a Philadelphia Starbucks where they sat, waiting for a business meeting. Nelson immediately asked to use the restroom and the manager insisted something must be purchased to get access to utilize the bathroom. According to 911 accounts, Starbucks staffers called the police approximately two minutes after the men arrived. In an all too familiar scene, Nelson and Robinson were told to leave the store and when they refused, they were handcuffed and arrested in a video that has gone viral.

Over 100 members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and other supporters showed up to the “Rally Against Racial Injustice” on Sunday near the downtown Philadelphia Starbucks where Nelson and Robinson were arrested, according to Yahoo. And while Starbucks has since issued an apology and Chief Executive Kevin Johnson met with Nelson and Robinson last Monday, calls to boycott Starbucks have grown louder and are having a trickle-down effect on local black-owned shops.

In Brooklyn, Borough President Eric Adams has embarked on a Black Coffee in Brooklyn Tour (#BLKCoffeeInBKTour) to support the 37 black-owned coffee shops around the area, with a commitment to visit every single one of them. 

Ariell Johnson, who became the first black woman to own a comic book store in Philly’s Kensington section is starting to see new faces.

I’ve seen some new faces, so I think that people who weren’t aware of us before, are aware of us now and are venturing out,” Johnson told the Philadelphia Tribune. “Over the long term I think we’ll see kind of an uptick in our coffee traffic but we have yet to see people pouring in the door.”

While Starbucks has announced plans to close all of their stores on May 29 to train employees on racial “implicit bias,” local officials say it isn’t enough.

The actions of the Starbucks corporation are totally unacceptable. We know they said they’re going to move forward and specifically focus on a training that deals with unconscious bias, but that’’ a one-day training,” Philadelphia Councilman Kenyatta Johnson said on Sunday. “We want to see how they’re going to change their culture as it relates to racial insensitivity and also diversity and inclusion as it relates to making sure that everyone who comes to a Starbucks store that lives in the city of Philadelphia should feel welcome.”

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Adedamola Agboola

Adedamola Agboola is a digital reporter at Black Enterprise Magazine. Previously, he was a multimedia reporter for Blank Slate Media covering the villages Roslyn and Manhasset for the Manhasset Times and Roslyn Times. Before that, he was a reporter with Norwood News, a biweekly community newspaper covering the neighborhoods of Norwood, Bedford Park, Fordham and University Heights. He is from Nigeria.


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