Kristopher Clemmons wants you to enjoy your latte. As lead counsel at Starbucks for its store development and store equipment development teams within Starbucks’ global supply chain organization, Clemmons helps strategize and put together deals with his employer’s suppliers that enhance the unique feeling of being in a Starbucks cafe.
“When you walk into one of our stores and encounter our equipment, furnishings and overall look and feel —there’s a great deal of work and customization that goes into procuring goods and services to deliver that experience,” said Clemmons, who has been with the coffeehouse giant since July 2015. Few outside the Starbucks corporate business team are cognizant of the attention to brand aesthetics, as well as the finely tuned negotiations undertaken to support the commercial contracting requirements for the company’s leading-edge espresso machines and other wares.
Clemmons, who describes his work as fun and highly varied, cites nitrogenated coffee—a cold beverage infused with nitrogen for a smooth, creamy texture—as one of the exciting offerings for which he has assisted with delivery. His role also includes work on the soon-to-open New York City Roastery, which is shaping up to be the largest Starbucks store in the world, replete with a roasting plant, café and restaurant, all in one space.
“We want to provide our customers—and our baristas, who are central to the Starbucks experience—with products they can get really excited about. To pull this off, our leadership has its hand on the pulse at all times and we as business stakeholders move quickly to develop and execute new ideas,” said Clemmons.
Before joining Starbucks, Clemmons was lead legal counsel for the wireless, information technology, mobile electronics, sporting goods and office supply retail categories at Amazon, which he described as being akin to being back in college. “There was boundless energy and ambition there. Every day you’d tackle totally new, complicated and unprecedented projects,” he said.
Before that, Clemmons was an associate with Sidley’s Real Estate practice in Chicago from August 2011 to December 2013. He recalls being intrigued at the time with the intricacies of complicated financing transactions. “So that’s what really attracted me to Sidley. While the real estate group was diverse in the type of work we did, there was a deep knowledge and experience working directly with sophisticated commercial real estate finance deals,” he said.
Among the projects he found uniquely gratifying at Sidley was a pro bono matter involving Chicago’s Civic Consulting Alliance (CCA). Clemmons advised CCA on drafting the city’s energy benchmarking legislation ordinance, which introduced a regime by which buildings of a certain size annually report their energy efficiency. The city then tabulates those numbers and reports back to the public.
Clemmons, who grew up in Chicago, and who is now living in the Starbucks motherland—Seattle, Washington—has been greatly enjoying the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two young sons. “It’s an unbelievably beautiful place with mountains, water and lush greenery everywhere you look. And yet it’s still a very urban, cosmopolitan city.” He says everyone in the family is avid about exploring the outdoors, especially on the bike path and ski slopes. Clemmons is a jazz devotee and a fan of the city’s thriving music scene.
Even with that recreation, Clemmons says living in Seattle has its pressures. “When I say, ‘I work at Starbucks,’ people automatically want to know if I can make a great latte. My lattes are decent,” he admits. “They’ve gotten a lot better.”
Published January 2017 - UPDATE, Director, Starbucks
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