Starbucks Past and Future

From hole-in-the-wall…

For coffee lovers like Laura and myself, no trip to Seattle would be complete without a pilgrimage to Starbucks. Down at the city’s famous farmer’s market, the retail giant still maintains the very first store it opened (pictured above). The progenitor Starbucks shop sold coffee, pastries and spices. You won’t find spices there anymore. The king of caffeine finds it more profitable to peddle Starbucks-branded kitsch to a stream of tourists so endless that they line up outside and, to prevent overcrowding in the hole-in-a-wall shop, are waved through in twos and threes.

As Starbucks has grown into a globe-straddling enterprise, it experiments with new concepts. You can get a feel for the company’s new directions by visiting the Starbucks Reserve complex on Pike Street (pictured below). Don’t be surprised if some of these retail ideas appear in a shopping center near you.

…to sprawling retail mega-center

Half the space at Starbucks Reserve is taken up by the gleaming machinery that roasts the beans and does whatever else the company does to make its coffee taste so good. The processing equipment provides a colorful backdrop for the mayhem that takes place in a massive retail space. Never have I seen a Starbucks store so large and packed with so many people.

Among many features, there’s a bakery…

I will say, the almond croissants were tasty.

And a bar…

Starbucks, it appears, is partnering with Knob Creek, the bourbon distiller. Knob Creek products were displayed prominently.

If you thought $2 for a cup of java was crazy, just wait. In another Starbucks innovation, you can buy a “flight” of gourmet coffees served in tiny, espresso-sized cups for an absurd price.

Not surprisingly, Starbucks Reserve has set aside considerable space for the kitsch — the t-shirts, the coffee mugs, the gourmet home-brewing sets, and all the rest. Now that Starbucks is a global brand, apparently there is no limit to the stuff that people will buy if it is emblazoned with the Starbucks logo.

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3 responses to “Starbucks Past and Future”

  1. DLunsford Avatar

    I miss those carefree Saturday mornings back in the 80s walking down to Carytown and hanging out at the old Carytown Coffee and Tea location. They would have that old classic roaster churning, filling the block with the smell of fresh roasted coffee. Way before anyone had heard of Starbucks or west-coast beans.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’d be curious to know how Jim feels about the transportation situation in Seattle. We were there a few years ago and it was pretty congested and not fun to drive – about the same as many urban areas such as Boise where we are right now after our week-long river trip on the Salmon River.

    Back to Seattle, we had tried to get to the famous fish market and gave up after encountering parking and traffic obstacles. Perhaps the more successful approach would have been to park near public transit or uber to do it.

    It takes 5 hours in a 15 passenger van to get from Boise to the town of Salmon and then another hour from there to the launch for rafts. The river is big and boisterous, wild, deep and of course, awesome but alas the Salmon no longer “run” there despite efforts to bring them back and it’s not just a simple thing as Steelheads that also come upstream from the Ocean – are still in abundance and support a significant tourism for fishermen who are brought in to rustic off-the-grid “lodges” to do their thing.

    1. We scrapped plans to rent a car in favor of sticking to downtown and environs (the Space Needle and nearby attractions) and walking everywhere. (Laura and I are Fitbit junkies and like to rack up our step counts.) I saw a fair number of buses, but they seemed mostly empty. But, then, that was a Saturday and Sunday when passenger counts would be down. In other words, I have few useful observations to make about Seattle’s transportation system.

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