A Canarsie Tale: Can Starbucks Come Home Again?

The birthplace of

Of all the java joints in the borough, why isn’t there a Starbucks in Canarsie?

That’s the question that both Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Kings County Democratic Party Attorney Frank Carone are asking considering that Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz grew up and attended public schools in Canarsie. Schultz is now considering a run for president as an independent.

Starbucks Executive Chairman Howatrd Schultz.

Schultz, along with rap artist Jay-Z, are arguably the most prominent contemporary figures that are products of Brooklyn’s public housing. Jay-Z grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Marcy Houses. Schultz grew up in Canarsie’s Bayview Houses, a complex of 23 eight-story buildings housing over 1600 residents at 2045 Rockaway Parkway and Seaview Avenue.

There are currently 34 Starbucks throughout Brooklyn, and Carone, who like Schultz, grew un in Canarsie and graduated from Canarsie High School, is particularly vexed that Schultz is not giving his home neighborhood one of the coveted mocha Meccas.

“The community that gave Howard Schultz his grit and character that are the fundamental building blocks to his success – his way of thanking them – is not having a Starbucks store in Canarsie,” said Carone, who has the largest multi-practice law firm in Brooklyn, but still lives in Mill Basin near his old neighborhood.

“They could open a franchise right off the Belt Parkway at exit 13 as a rest stop or part of a rest stop,” he suggested. Another possibility is along the Rockaway Parkway commercial strip near the L-train stop.

Attorney Frank Carone

Carone notes that on the Starbucks website it tells how Schultz got his idea to start coffee franchises while sipping coffee at a café in Italy, but argues the fundamental building blocks that made him a success comes from the streets of Canarsie.

“A book that I enjoyed reading called Start Up Nation is about the fact that Israel has the most entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial start-ups in the world. This is due to the fact that so many citizens of Israel serve in the military. In the military, they get the grit and courage that leads them to be successful as I feel I did from my time in the Marines, and that’s the same grit that Howard Schultz got from living in Canarsie,” said Carone.

Adams concurs that the neighborhood would benefit from a Starbucks. “I encourage Starbucks to come and see the opportunities that would come with doing business in Canarsie,” said Adams.

Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges said a lot goes into where to cite Starbucks franchises and would not comment on any possible franchises in the city.

“We are always looking for new locations for Starbucks stores, but don’t have any specific details to share on Canarsie,” he said.

To Shultz’ credit, he is known as being philanthropic and goes into detail about his growing up in Canrasie in the first chapter of his book, Pour Your Heart Into It.

“I was three when my family moved out of my grandmother’s apartment into the Bayview Projects in 1956. They were in the heart of Canarsie, on Jamaica Bay, fifteen minutes from the airport, fifteen minutes from Coney Island. Back then, the Projects were not a frightening place but a friendly, large, leafy compound with a dozen eight-story brick buildings, all brand-new. The elementary school, P.S. 272, was right on the grounds of the Projects, complete with playground, basketball courts, and paved school yard. Still, no one was proud of living in the Projects; our parents were all what we now call “the working poor.”

“Still, I had many happy moments during my childhood. Growing up in the Projects made for a well-balanced value system, as it forced me to get along with many different kinds of people. Our building alone housed about 150 families, and we all shared one tiny elevator. Each apartment was very small, and our family started off in a cramped two-bedroom unit,” he wrote.

Schultz, who played quarterback on the Canarsie High School football team, and from which he received a scholarship to Northern Michigan University, also recounts going back to his old school.

I stopped by Canarsie High School, where the football team was practicing. In the warm autumn air, the blue uniforms and play calls brought the old exhilaration flooding back over me. I asked where the coach was. From the midst of the hefty backs and shoulder pads a small red-hooded figure emerged. To my surprise, I found myself face to face with Mike Camardese, a guy who had played on the team with me. He brought me up to date on the team, telling me how the school finally got its own football field,” wrote Schultz.

“By coincidence, they were planning a ceremony that Saturday to name the field in honor of my old coach, Frank Morogiello. For the occasion, I decided to make a five-year commitment to help support the team. Without the support of Coach Morogiello, where would I be today? Maybe my gift will allow some Canarsie athlete, driven as I was, to rise above his roots and achieve something no one could ever imagine.”