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Starbucks to open store in Ground Zero of racial strife

Starbucks baristas may not be writing “Race Together” on customers’ coffee cups anymore, but CEO Howard Schultz certainly isn’t done talking about the nation’s touchiest topic.

On Tuesday, Schultz talked about his company’s efforts to address racial tension and announced that his coffee shop chain will open a location in Ferguson, Mo. as a “way to create employment.” Protestors clashed with police officers in the St. Louis suburb this summer, after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, by a white cop.

Starbucks has locations in nearby Jennings and Florissant, Mo., and six stores in Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, but none in Ferguson.

Schultz tucked the Ferguson store news into comments he made on stage at an event hosted by NationSwell, a digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal. Schultz’s appearance at the event focused on his company’s ongoing efforts to combat racism and inequality in the United States, its education benefits for workers, and its recent commitment to hire military veterans and so-called opportunity youths, generally described as unemployed 16 to 24-year olds who have not followed a traditional education path.

After his on-stage interview, Schultz told Fortune that there was no specific timeline for the opening of a Ferguson store, and he declined to provide more information about plans for the location there. A Starbucks spokesperson did not provide an opening date but said that the Ferguson store is “part of our plan to build more stores in urban neighborhoods.”

Whenever Starbucks ultimately open its store in Ferguson, a city that’s 70% black, the location will counter the heavy concentration of Starbucks locations in predominantly white neighborhoods. By crunching Census figures and a dataset of 11,500 Starbucks locations in the United States as of August 2014, Quartz determined that the density of Starbucks stores increases along with the whiteness of census tracts.

The Ferguson store announcement comes a month after the Seattle-based company launched “Race Together,” an initiative that encouraged Starbucks baristas to start conversations about race relations with customers by writing the words “Race Together” on coffee cups. The company developed the campaign after several months of conversations between Schultz and company employees about the racial tensions that erupted across the U.S. after grand juries declined to indict the white police officers implicated in the deaths of Brown and 43-year-old Eric Garner, a black man who died from a police officer’s chokehold in Staten Island, N.Y.

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