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The proposed West Hartford Starbucks affects nearby unionists

WEST HARTFORD – Employees at the unionized Corbin’s Corner Starbucks are concerned about the coffee giant’s proposed drive-through location, which is just a mile away from them.

Corporate Center West Associates LLC, owner of the office building and lot at 433 S. Main St., is seeking a special amendment from the West Hartford City Council to allow the redeployment to build a Starbucks on the northeast corner of the lot.

But Travis Glenney-Tegtmeier, a shift supervisor and union organizer who has worked at the Corbin’s Corner store for 11 years, is asking the public and city council members to consider his store’s employees before making a decision on the proposed new location. A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for November 30.

“When I was told that they were literally taking this proposal a mile down the road and one exit up the interstate, it felt like a calculated move that would surely come after our union victory,” Glenney-Tegtmeier told Hearst Connecticut Media Group, adding that it was a conversation he and other employees had.

Glenney-Tegtmeier, who also formally raised his concerns in a letter to the city council, cited a recent store closure in Ithaca, NY that the National Labor Relations Board found illegal.

In June, the Corbin’s Corner store became the first Starbucks in Connecticut to unionize, and one in Vernon has since joined. Organizers said little progress has been made on a deal they hoped to achieve nationally along with the more than 250 other unionized Starbucks.

“We’re fine these days. It’s a constant pace,” said Glenney-Tegtmeier. “We’re kind of at an impasse on that.”

Workers at Starbucks' Corbin's Corner store in West Hartford voted to organize in June.

Workers at Starbucks’ Corbin’s Corner store in West Hartford voted to organize in June.

Contributed Photo / Corbin’s Corner Starbucks

When asked for comment on the proposed location, a Starbucks spokesperson said, “We have no additional information about a potential location in West Hartford.”

Larry Shipman, an attorney representing the developers, said in a statement that the two sites would have their own customer groups. He did not want to say when Starbucks was involved in the project and whether the coffee company had started communication with the developer.

“Our focus, and the focus of next week’s hearing, is the bid for the new Starbucks,” Shipman said. “Starbucks is a growing company with a loyal customer base and is looking to expand its presence in West Hartford. Our location and Corbin’s Corner are two separate business parks, each with their own customer base.”

The proposed Starbucks on South Main Street is part of a larger plan to redevelop the property. In the statement, Shipman said the property owners had begun discussing the plans with existing tenants.

Starbucks plans to open a new drive-through location at 433 South Main St. in West Hartford.  Employees at the nearby unionized store have concerns about the intent behind the plan.

Starbucks plans to open a new drive-through location at 433 South Main St. in West Hartford. Employees at the nearby unionized store have concerns about the intent behind the plan.

Michael Walsh / Hearst Connecticut Media

“We have also been in discussions with existing tenants to expand, upgrade and enhance the current facilities on the property,” Shipman said. “We have additional unused land on our property that is currently being used to meet the vital parking needs of our current tenants. We are evaluating the long-term viability of potential additional mixed-use uses for our property that would complement the area, but there is no application imminent.”

According to Shipman documents presented to the City Council, future plans include adding residential homes to the property and expanding and remodeling Hartford HealthCare’s offices at adjacent 445 S. Main St., adding approximately 24,000 square feet of building space . The two buildings share an entrance and parking lot on South Main Street.

“While this motion is for Starbucks, it is necessary to consider the project as a whole,” Shipman wrote in the memo to the city council. “Starbucks is a logical extension of the South Main Street-New Britain Avenue corridor. It will provide a significant convenience to occupants of the existing office building which has been expanded [Hartford HealthCare] Facilities and the projected future residential/housing development planned for another part of the overall site.”

US Senator Richard Blumenthal shakes hands with union members and supporters at Corbin's Corner Starbucks.

US Senator Richard Blumenthal shakes hands with union members and supporters at Corbin’s Corner Starbucks.

Post / Travis Glenney Tegtmeier

Glenney-Tegtmeier said he was concerned that the drive-thru option for the proposed new Starbucks would affect business at the Corbin Corner location.

“I know a lot of the people who work at the corner of South Main Street and New Britain Avenue stores who are regulars at our store,” he said. “They come down every day. Obviously, you can’t blame anyone for crossing the street instead. That’s my first reaction right there – there go all these people. Another aspect of our business has always been people jumping off the freeway to get a quick drink or something. If drive-thru is an option one exit away, then it’s obvious what you’re looking for instead.

In addition to the South Main Street proposal, another drive-through Starbucks will be built at 25 Kane Street.

The public hearing on the proposed Starbucks will be held on November 30 at 6:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of West Hartford City Hall.

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