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Cafe to connect students with sponsor companies

Shiru Cafe to open Feb. 21 down the street from CareerLAB, part of international chain

Updated Dec. 5 at 1:55 p.m.

Shiru Cafe, part of an international chain that offers free drinks, is under construction at 165 Angell St. The cafe — which is slated to open this February 21 steps from CareerLAB — will be the first Shiru to open in the United States. Shiru works with sponsor companies like Microsoft and Accenture in Japan to create a comfortable space for students, faculty and staff. Those who register using their smartphones will have access to free drinks, Wi-Fi, electrical outlets and study spaces, along with the opportunity to connect with sponsor companies through meetups at the café.

Shiru allows students to learn about job opportunities offered by these companies, said Aoi Fukihara, Shiru’s overseas department manager. Companies pay Shiru to advertise internships and other positions on promotional cups, customers’ smartphones and projected screens in the café.

This method of advertising has proven successful for sponsor companies. For example, JP Morgan sponsors Shiru in Japan. Last year, 40 percent of JP Morgan Japan’s new hires were Shiru Cafe patrons.

Just 50 feet away from the construction, Matt Donato, director of CareerLAB, sees a potential opportunity for partnership with Shiru. Both CareerLAB and Shiru charge employers to interact with Brown students. But Donato believes that unlike Shiru, CareerLAB has a lot of other services in addition to just bringing employers to campus. CareerLAB stresses their recruiting standards to make sure both students and employers are treated fairly, he said. “We really do think of it with the student first. … If the cafe is really driven by employer revenue and sponsorship and they’re really trying to push employers on students, … I’m not sure if they’re as student-focused and student-centric as CareerLAB would be,” Donato added.

Shiru was developed by Yusuke Kakimoto, CEO of ENRISSION Inc., the managing company of Shiru. The first cafe was launched in Japan just four years ago. Since then, Kakimoto has opened almost 30 stores in Japan and India before its first venture in the United States. Shiru targets high-achieving universities and will expand to peer institutions such as Harvard and Yale in the spring.

“We offer free drinks, but we are particular about our quality of coffee,” said Alex Inoue, general manager of Shiru. The coffee is organic and fair trade. If patrons want to take their beverage to go, they’ll have to pay the price: $1.

Shiru Providence plans to employ students as staff. Alexander Alverson ’20 has already been hired by the cafe, which he found out about through his Japanese teacher at Brown. “The business is employing students and fostering a greater sense of community between Providence, Brown, larger corporations and Japanese business,” Alverson said. “So for someone like me, who might work in Japan in the future, this is a positive relationship.” Alverson added that he is excited to practice his Japanese with the other staff and experience work culture in a Japanese business. However, Alverson believes Shiru could alienate other Providence community members because it solely targets Brown community members.

Fukihara doesn’t think Shiru Providence will compete with other nearby coffee shops, like Starbucks and Blue State Coffee. In fact, Blue State welcomes Shiru to the local community, wrote Manager Kris Valcorba in an email to The Herald.

In the winter months to come, those near campus can look forward to free drinks for all. Shiru offers drip, decaf, espresso, cold brew and nitro coffee to the community. The cafe also offers four types of tea, six types of lattes and orange juice.

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article stated that Shiru Cafe in Providence will open Feb. 20. In fact, it will open on Feb. 21. The Herald regrets the error

Editor's Note: Clarification was added to the story to specify that Shiru Cafe has worked with Microsoft, Accenture and JP Morgan in Japan. 

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