one cannot accuse me of having an affinity for any kind of coffee, much less coffee from the most ubiquitous chain in the world … but that doesn’t mean we didn’t cross over to the other side of Pike Place to visit the original Starbucks location while we were in downtown Seattle back in October. somehow I’d gotten into my head that I’d visited the store while visiting Seattle back in 2007 but once I saw the line snaking out the door of the actual first Starbucks I realized my error. (well, really, the first one to open in 1971 was on Western Ave but relocated down the block to Pike Place in 1976 to make way for what is now Steinbruek Park.) in reality, I’d probably fallen for one of the other conveniently camouflaged locations also within a block of the Pike Place Market.
|just got in line to order drinks…
in March of 1971, three guys opened the first location as a local bean roaster and retailer, inspired in part by the success of Alfred Peet (he of Peet’s Coffee) who also focused on selling high-quality beans and equipment. during their first year, they purchased green coffee beans from Peet’s to roast themselves before making connections to purchase directly from growers for themselves. in 1984, the original owners bought out Peet’s and, after deciding to focus their energy on that arm of their business, sold the Starbucks brand to Howard Schultz, who remains the chairman and CEO of the company. Schultz had been brought on in 1985 as marketing director and, after seeing coffee bars in Milan, tried to convince the original owners to incorporate such a concept into the Starbucks model. his efforts bore no fruit at the time and he left to open his own coffee shop (Il Giornale).
once under Schultz’s direction, the first coffee shop locations to open outside of Seattle were in Vancouver and Chicago. in 1986, before Schultz took over, there were 6 Starbucks locations; in 1989 there were 46 and they were roasting over 2 million pounds of coffee a year. in 1992 (the time of their IPO) there were 140 locations. four years later, they opened the first location outside of North America — in Tokyo; it took another 8 years before they expanded into Latin America (Mexico City). in 2003, Starbucks bought Seattle’s Best Coffee and an Italian outfit called Torrefazione Italia and expanded their stores to 6,400. now they have a a flabbergasting 20,366 locations in 61 countries. one wonders how that’s even possible (by buying out other chains, clearly). two weeks ago, they announced the purchase of Teavana — anyone want to take bets as to whether it will result in being able to procure tolerable brewed tea from your local Starbucks? (I’ll stick to my incredibly convenient and locally-owned CoffeeBytes.)
|waiting (not in a line) for completed drinks
in any case, our trip to the (not-quite) original Starbucks delivered on our expectations. the line was out the door but the staff kept it moving along smoothly. all the died-in-the-wool Starbucks fans of our party picked out their purchases, many of which featured the original logo. it took about 10 minutes to get through the line to order, and maybe another 15 or 20 minutes longer waiting on drinks — and, according to our line attendant, it was a relatively slow day as there weren’t any cruise ships dumping their passengers into Pike Place. I will admit to taking satisfaction in that fact — I can’t imagine what the line would have been like on a truly busy day nor picture myself waiting patiently in that line.
an interesting characteristic of Houston is the city’s lack of zoning laws. rather, city officials of yesteryear thought it better to let the market decide. on Sunday, while Laura was at work, I walked up Heights Blvd to a coffee shop called Waldo’s. it’s located in a bungalow and, without the sign and cars parked out front, it looks like any of the other quaint, historic-looking nestled houses between apartment buildings along the tree-lined boulevard. the counter is located at the back of the house, near the original kitchen, and when you first walk in there are an array of tables, an alcove with a couch, and a stage for live performances. stepping from the overcast, humid outdoors into the cafe, the tables were filled with students and their laptops, textbooks, notebooks, all manner of study materials. rather than disturb them, or take my tea outside where it was still a little chilly and a little misty, I nestled into a fold-out loveseat in the front room.
during the course of the day I was joined by a family eating breakfast whose pre-verbal son was still a little unsteady on his feet; a woman studying spatial relationships (architecture perhaps?); several woman looking for a room in which they could gossip, but who left after a few minutes just as the young girl with them got settled into an awesome high-backed chair with matching ottoman; a young woman typing up notes on her laptop.
after an hour and a half, once the sun peeked out and the threat of precipitation dissipated, I went out to the porch for awhile. unfortunately, after about ten minutes a pair of guys came out to smoke while drinking their coffee. they had a lengthy and embarrassingly cliched conversation about cars and the relative merits of Audis and Volkswagons (one, who was wearing cowboy boots and, in spite of them, sounded rather like a walking stereotype of east coast ego and privilege, had recently purchased an Audi). but, after about an hour, another smoker wandered out onto the porch and I decided that, while I very much liked being outside in the sunshine, I much preferred the non-toxic, air conditioned sitting room, once again acknowledging how great we have it in Madison and Dane County.
on my last full day in Ireland, in addition to browsing in three bookshops (one used, two new) and buying three books (Waterstone’s was having a three-for sale, how could I resist?!), and not seeing Saint Oliver Plunkett’s head a second time, I took the bus out to the beach at Bettystown. it being a) the first week in September, b) after kids had returned to school and c) rather chilly, there was hardly anyone on the beach. as in Florida (and unlike San Diego), you could drive out onto the beach. since there weren’t many people on the beach, more than a few of the compact little cars went tearing up and down, thorugh the pools of water that had gathered along depressions the sand as the tide receeded, sending water spraying fifteen and twenty feet in the air. who knows, maybe they do that even in the height of tourist season?
in any case, the quiet made for a good stroll and time for mulling all of my experiences in Ireland. I even sat for awhile and read the campy book I borrowed, getting my butt rather damp in the process from the still-damp sand. not as damp as if I’d sat on the rippled surface seen in the second pic (that’d just be silly), but mildly uncomfortable all the same. the damp didn’t help my core temp, either, and I was thoroughly glad to get a cup of tea in a cafe around the corner from where the bus was to pick me up. good thing I asked in the cafe where the stop was — no sign, just an understanding that anyone loitering around in front of the laundramat at the appropriate time would luck out and the bus would stop. in most small towns there was a small post with a little Bus Eireann sign at the top, but for whatever reason, this particular location (in the middle of Bettystown, the closest stop to the beach!) had no signage.