Wonderly assures that Starbucks is here to stay

On March 22, Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz firmly defended the company’s support of same-sex marriage when a shareholder accused this position of being bad for business.

The shareholder in question, Thomas Strobhar, is the founder of the Corporate Morality Action Center, an organization that seeks to challenge corporations on issues like gay marriage, abortion and pornography.  

Last year, Starbucks, a Seattle-based coffee chain, supported a Washington state bill to legalize gay marriage.  This support triggered a boycott from the National Organization for Marriage.

Strobhar spoke up at the annual investor’s meeting to suggest that the boycott had negatively affected sales, and therefore, Starbucks should avoid publicly supporting gay marriage in the future.

“In the first full quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earnings — shall we say politely — were a little disappointing,” he said.

Shultz made it clear he wasn’t going to budge on the issue when he told Strobhar, “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”

What does this mean for Missouri Southern, which, at the beginning of this semester, reinstated Starbucks brand coffee in the library coffee shop?  Does the company’s firm stance on same-sex marriage affect coffee sales?  Did Shultz’s outspoken reaction to Strobhar’s suggestion make customers uneasy?  

According to Food Service Director and Sodexo Representative Mike Wonderly, the answer is no.

He said that he has not seen any problems, but “if it came to the point where it was a decision by the student governing body that, ‘Hey, this is such an issue for us that we don’t want Starbucks in here,’ we would definitely look at that and take the next steps available.”

Wonderly said that Southern is more of a “franchisee” under the Starbucks name and is not directly affiliated with Starbucks.  He also said that Southern’s branch does not “take an opinion or stance.”

“Starbucks is here because it’s a recognizable brand that people really want and, to my knowledge, trust, so until something along those lines changes, Starbucks isn’t going to go away,” he said.