By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Community rallies to keep cherished baristas at Canal Starbucks
Canal Starbucks
Frequent customers of the Starbucks coffee shop on Canal Drive in Turlock have come together to sign a petition imploring the corporation to stop the transfer of beloved baristas Matthew Joudeh, Dede Zare and John Jacob (Photo contributed).

Customers who frequent the Starbucks coffee shop located on Canal Drive in Turlock like to think of it as a haven for locals, where the baristas know their name and special bonds have been forged between the community and those behind the counter. 

When neighboring resident Caryn Kyte heard that three of the shop’s beloved employees were scheduled to be transferred to different locations, the longtime “CanalBucks” regular jumped into action to create a petition that has garnered over 120 signatures in just two days. 

“This isn’t just a Starbucks, it’s an extension of our living room. It’s not a Starbucks off the freeway — they know your name here, and they ask how you’re doing,” Kyte said. “Matthew has been here for five years and he knows my children, knows what’s happening in our lives and makes sure the store feels like a welcoming place for us.”

Matthew Joudeh is one of three employees included on the petition, which also names Dede Zare and John Jacob as baristas that signees are aiming to protect. The employees have nothing to do with creating, planning or participating in the petition, Kyte clarified, but she felt compelled to do everything she could to keep the trio from being transferred to other Turlock locations. 

After some internet research, Kyte decided submitting a petition to Starbucks would be her best course of action and got to work, sitting outside of the store on Monday and Tuesday to collect signatures in favor of keeping Joudeh, Zare and Jacob at the Canal location. She knew she needed to get at least 100 signatures, but surpassed that number on just the second day. 

“I think it says that this community cares about each other. This is what a small hometown is all about. We know each other and we show up for each other,” Kyte said. “We had so many people with small children come by to sign with their children, and they come in and light up when they see Matthew in the morning. So many high school and elementary kids know Dede by name, and all three are just a great part of our community.”

The Canal Starbucks’ proximity to Julien Elementary School and Turlock High School makes it a unique location for baristas to work, where they often form bonds with the students and families who come in daily and oftentimes need a lot more patience during busy afternoons and bustling mornings. During the pandemic when the shop had to remove tables and chairs from both inside and outside of their location, customers brought their own lawn chairs and set them up in the parking lot so that they could continue the same, familiar experience. 

Kristin Bettencourt, who works at THS, said most of the time she stops into the Canal Starbucks out of a desire to see the employees rather than to grab a cup of coffee. Bettencourt made clear the ties the employees have to the community; Jacob has spearheaded efforts to pool money together and purchase a table to help raise funds for past Dancing with the Turlock Stars events, she said, and Joudeh is a former student of hers.

“They’re just a part of our community around Canal Drive and part of all of us who go there every day,” Bettencourt said. “We don’t want them to leave.”

Kyte said that after two days, she believes the petition has garnered enough signatures and wants to submit it to the Starbucks corporate office as soon as possible. Starbucks was not able to be reached for comment by the time of publication, but their website doesn’t make a mention of any places to submit petitions. 

Whether or not the effort is successful, Kyte is happy to show the employees who have done so much for her that the community truly cares about them.

“This store is really a second home, and we want to keep the family together,” Kyte said.