Starbucks brings new store concept to downtown Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids’ Studio Park is home to the first Starbucks of its kind in Michigan.

The Starbucks Pickup on the corner of Ionia Avenue and Oakes Street SW opened last week.

“It’s the first corporate location we’ve had downtown, so it’s a chance for us to really get invested in the Grand Rapids community,” store manager Kristin Wehrum said. “I’m really passionate about this area. I live right over here. And so I’m excited to be able to to be a part of where I live now and give back to community with amazing company that I work for.”

(Starbucks Pickup Store Manager Kristin Wehrum hands off a drink to a customer.)

Unlike traditional Starbucks stores, there are no seats in this location. Customers must place their order through the Starbucks app and select the proper pickup location. When they arrive, a digital display installed into the wall shows the status of their order. When their drink or sandwich is ready, a barista places it on a pickup shelf for the customer.

“All in all, it should be about a 30-second process,” Wehrum said.

Starbucks launched its pickup store concept in New York in 2019, according Wehrum. Since then, it’s grown to 30 locations nationwide, the Starbucks website shows. The Starbucks Pickup in downtown Grand Rapids is the only one in the area; the next closest location is in Chicago.

(A Sept. 1, 2021 photo shows the interior of Michigan’s first Starbucks Pickup, located at the corner of Ionia Avenue and Oakes Street SW in downtown Grand Rapids’ Studio Park.)

“Starbucks is busier now than ever. I mean, we’ve seen astronomical sales growth. And so if anything, it’s just keeping up with the growing business,” Wehrum said.

Wehrum said the pandemic accelerated store switchovers, with more people seeking out food delivery and mobile order options.

“I think it really put us in a great place to be opening up these locations because so many people are now familiar with the mobile platform, more so than ever. But I would say definitely we’re trying to cater as well to people who aren’t necessarily staying in (and) sitting for safety reasons,” Wehrum said.

The store employs 17 people, which Wehrum says is typical for a Starbucks store of the same volume. But she added that says she’s always looking for more help.

(A barista froths milk for an order at Michigan’s first Starbucks Pickup, located on the corner of Ionia Avenue and Oakes Street SW in Grand Rapids’ Studio Park.)

“I think the staffing shortage in the food industry has been really eye-opening for what we need to do as leaders in the service industry: to create workspaces that people still want to be a part of, great pay, benefits, a healthy work environment. And that’s something that I, personally, as a leader have always been driven to create. Obviously we’ve invested a lot in partner pay in the recent months,” she said.

Starbucks starting wages are $12 an hour for baristas and $15.24 for supervisors.

“And we are on track, I want to say in the next few years, to have a starting wage across the nation of $15 an hour, and that’s plus tips as well,” Wehrum added.

The company also offers health care benefits, free college tuition, a 401(k) and Spotify Premium to employees who work at least 20 hours a week, she added.

Wehrum said there are no immediate plans to open additional Starbucks Pickup locations in West Michigan.

“This is definitely a test to see the success that we have having a smaller footprint, what we’re capable of doing here and what kind of business we can attract,” she explained.

(A Sept. 1, 2021 photo shows the interior of Michigan’s first Starbucks Pickup, located at the corner of Ionia Avenue and Oakes Street SW in downtown Grand Rapids’ Studio Park.)

According to Wehrum, Starbucks plans to add 29 more Starbucks Pickups nationwide by the end of this fiscal year or beginning of next fiscal year.

As for the downtown location, Wehrum hopes to serve at least 3,000 to 4,000 customers each week. She’s hopeful ArtPrize and the visitors it attracts will help.

“I understand we’re a corporation, but I’m really community-driven. I love all these local places and the amazing things that we do in Grand Rapids and so I’m excited to be here,” she said.

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