I quit Starbucks and you should, too

I have been at Calvin for 2.5 years, and in that time I have spent hundreds of dollars and countless hours at Starbucks because it’s easy to get to and close to my house. I had gone to a local coffee shop four times before this year, and only once did I go there to study. 

Those facts are really embarrassing to me because my parents own a small coffee shop in Ottawa, Illinois, a town that no one knows because it’s in the middle of cornfields southwest of Chicago. They have owned and run Jeremiah Joe Coffee since 2002.

They’ve maintained the business through minimum wage increases, the 2008 recession, Starbucks coming to town, etc. After conversations with my dad last year about the state-wide minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, we thought we could handle anything. But as it turns out, we did not have a global pandemic in mind. 

On March 13th, the shop saw its highest sales day for the next four months. My dad and the manager, Karole, had to make difficult decisions quickly because sales no longer were allowing us to operate in the same capacity of pre-quarantine. Baristas had to adjust daily to new protocols and standards, forcing them to work harder than ever before while making less money because a significant portion of their income comes from tips.

At the same time, I am aware that Jeremiah Joe never would have survived if the community did not come out, try to figure out the website, and have patience with the baristas as we made mistakes. 

Since moving back to Grand Rapids, I found that with the lack of places for students on campus to study without a mask on, I was spending a significant amount of time and money at the Starbucks down the road.

And then I remembered Jeremiah Joe. I remembered all of the baristas who complained that if they filed for unemployment, they would be making more than what we made as baristas. I remembered the hard nights where my parents feared how many more days of low sales they could take.

So, I quit Starbucks. From now on, I will be visiting as many coffee shops and cafes in the Grand Rapids area as I can. I will be drinking coffee roasted here in Grand Rapids so the money I spend is put back into this community.I invite you to do this with me.

Already, I have found that several coffee shops did not have the luxury of staying open for the months of the quarantine, and as the threat of COVID-19 still looms, they don’t know when they will have to close again. By supporting local coffee shops, more of the revenue is being put back into the community than with chains. We have the opportunity to help and support our community by showing up, drinking coffee and teas, and studying at places we’ve never known before because we’ve been distracted by the ease of Starbucks. I am two weeks into my journey, and already I have been amazed at the cutest coffee shops that have the best lattes I have had in a long time. 

You can follow my journey and try out coffee shops in the Grand Rapids area via the Instagram account @sipandstudygr.