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New buzz brewing over Starbucks at VA Center

January 05, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Donna Custer had a thirst for a caramel macchiato.

And the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg proved to be just the place to slake it following the grand opening Wednesday of a Starbucks coffee shop on the first floor of the hospital.

"I love it; it's one of my favorites," she said of the drink as she pointed to a glazed bun cake on the top of the counter that she also wanted to add to her order.

A veterans' affairs compliance officer from Martinsburg, Custer was among those at the front of the line for the 9 a.m. grand opening of the coffee shop, which included free cake, coffee and carnations for the first 115 customers.

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One of 15 such collaborations nationwide between Starbucks and regional VA centers, the shop's opening marked the entry of the company into the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, said Veterans' Canteen Service officer Jeannie Dadd, who oversees the center's retail, cafeteria and vending operations.

While not properly a Starbucks store, the venture is part of a food service agreement that teams placement of Starbucks brand products with existing facilities who staff the shops with employees trained by Starbucks personnel, Dadd said.

"The difference between Starbucks and us is we purchase their equipment and brew their products, Dadd said. "We use all their products."

VAMC Public Affairs Officer Barbara Corbin called the addition of the coffee shop a plus for the center.

"It's just one more way of enhancing and expanding service for veterans and our employees," Corbin said.

The store, which will keep hours daily from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., is open to the public.

Offering a full range of drinks that includes Starbucks house blend, lattes, cappuccinos, espressos, mochas, iced coffee drinks, smoothies and teas, as well as heaping helpings of cakes, cookies and pastries, the opening event drew a long line of customers.

"It's a big day for the VA," Corbin said.

Dadd said she'd also like the canteen service to begin offering other Starbucks brand merchandise, including packaged coffee, drinking mugs and coffee-flavored mints.

The day also marked the grand opening of The Optical Shop at the center. Open for business since early October, the store offers discounted prescription glasses and provides fittings and adjustments for veterans and their families.

"We want to cater to the older patient, the World War II veteran who might come in here, and then we want to cater to the younger veteran from the Iraq war," said store manager Shelley Fleming.

The store is open to the public.

"If you can walk through that door, you can buy glasses as long as you have a prescription," Fleming said.

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