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.