When you’re in the jewelry business, love is a big deal.
So when Ashton Yates-Woolley heard that Starbucks implemented a dress code prohibiting its employees from wearing rings with stones in them, she took it personally.
“We are in the business of celebrating love,” she said. “Anything that puts a damper on that piques my interest.”
Late last year, Starbucks updated its dress code. Most of the changes were made in response to months of internal discussion within the company. Much of that discussion surrounded tattoos, which previously could not be seen. While most of the moves relaxed the Seattle-based company’s dress code, the rules regarding jewelry got more strict. Rings with stones in them, such as many engagement rings, aren’t allowed.
A spokeswoman for Starbucks said the change was necessary to comply with state and local food safety laws, as the company has been handling more and more food items in addition to coffee drinks.
Yates-Woolley went to her dad, Ron Yates, with an idea: What if their store, Yates & Co. Jewelers of Modesto, offered rings designed to conform to the new rules to local Starbucks employees?
Ron was all for it.
“We just want to create goodwill with our local baristas,” he said.
They reached out to Starbucks but could not contact anyone at the corporate level. So Yates-Woolley created a flier and delivered it to a couple of local coffee shops. She also started a hashtag, #bringbackloveStarbucks.
A few curious baristas came into the store and left with new tungsten, titanium or cobalt rings. Word started to spread, and as of Tuesday morning, Yates & Co. had given out 109 rings. Most of them have gone to women, but a few went to men. And you don’t have to be married to get one – you just have to work at Starbucks. To prove it, people bring in business cards or pay stubs or, in some cases, their aprons.
They come into the store, select a design, get sized for it and then leave with a new ring.
Starbucks appreciates the effort and the partnerships it has with many local businesses, the spokeswoman said.
At the H Street Starbucks on Tuesday, employees said they could not comment. But a few of them were wearing the rings.
The idea, while novel, isn’t unprecedented. A Sterling Heights, Mich., jeweler made a similar offer to Starbucks baristas there last year.
Yates and Yates-Woolley aren’t seeking anything in return. They have had more than a few pounds of coffee delivered to them, however.
“I haven’t gotten any pastries, though,” Yates said with a smile.
Baristas have come in from as far away as San Francisco. One woman even called from New York. She didn’t want to pay to ship the ring, however.
On the Yates & Co. Facebook page, dozens of happy baristas are pictured posing with their new bands. One newlywed Starbucks employee came in, Yates-Woolley said, and when she heard about the offer she got misty-eyed.
“She wanted to wear a wedding ring to symbolize her love,” Yates-Woolley said. “She was really happy.”