Walk into the new Starbucks store at Middleton Road and Route 22 in Aberdeen, and you might be struck by the wide-open layout and sunlight streaming in through large picture windows. They illuminate customers sitting and enjoying coffee or brightly-colored iced teas as they work on laptops or peruse their smartphones.
You might also be struck by the sign posted near the main entrance that states: “This store is dedicated to people united by their courage to serve our country.”
Company officials had the military theme in mind as the store was being developed for Aberdeen, which has had deep connections with Aberdeen Proving Ground since the nearby Army post opened more than a century ago.
Store manager Elizabeth Lucas said Starbucks works to tie “military family stores,” such as the Aberdeen location, into the fabric of the community when such stores are opened near military installations such as Dover Air Force Base in Delaware or in Annapolis, home of the U.S. Naval Academy.
“That way we can be more involved in the community,” she said during an interview Wednesday morning at the Aberdeen store, which opened July 6.
Lucas noted military veterans and military spouses are part of the Aberdeen store’s workforce. She also described plans to create an outdoor rock garden on the property with tributes to deployed soldiers painted on the rocks, or adopt a military unit and send them coffee and other items when deployed.
She also said plans are being made to hold a dedication ceremony in September to celebrate the store’s opening as well the surrounding community and its military partners — Starbucks seeks to invite Aberdeen community leaders, APG commanders and representatives of the National Guard, to celebrate members of the military and “thank them for their hard work in serving the country.”
“It’s open to the public, so anybody’s welcome to come,” she said of the ceremony.
Lucas has not served in the military, but she grew up near Fort Dix in New Jersey, and her grandfather and cousin are Army veterans, she said.
She currently lives in Aberdeen and has “really wanted” to bring a Starbucks store to the city since she began working with the company. Lucas said she has been with Starbucks for five years and started as a barista.
“The community is just excited that we have something new and something like Starbucks,” she said of the customer feedback so far.
Summer drinks such as iced teas and Frappuchinos-brand blended iced coffee have been popular so far, and Starbucks’ free wi-fi internet service is available, too, Lucas said.
The store was built along Aberdeen’s Route 22 commercial corridor and opened as the city extends Middleton Road north to connect with Beards Hill Road. The City Council approved an $871,777 contract with Allan Myers MD Inc. of Fallston in April, with the goal of finishing construction by late September.
“I think it will be good for our business,” Lucas said of extending Middleton.
Customers Shirley Scott, a resident of Florida spending the summer in Harford County, and Morgan Wells, of Baltimore, sat under the sign expressing tribute to service members.
Scott, who was raised in Port Deposit, said her son lives in the area. She recalled the child-like excitement her adult son expressed when the family drove past and saw the Starbucks was open.
“My son was in the car, and he was so excited,” recalled Scott, who said she purchased a Starbucks gift card for him.
Morgan, 15, had been waiting in the store since 7 a.m. with plans to meet her sister, who works in Aberdeen, for lunch.
“I’ve seen so many people,” she said.
Morgan was able to keep herself occupied for more than three hours, connecting her smartphone to the free Wi-fi service.
She also had a small bag of Starbucks products on her table and said the “ultimate caramel Frappuccino” is probably her favorite drink.
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“I’m sure that people around here are pretty happy [to have a Starbucks], because it’s coffee — and sugar,” Morgan said.