Thursday, March 12, 2009

And the Sign Says....

A curious event happened today as the scaffolding around the corner of Pike and 1st Avenue in Seattle came down and a new Starbucks store was unveiled. (Another Starbucks in Seattle you may ask… is this possible??)

The store opens tomorrow but already it is a show stopper. The first thing you notice is the logo. It’s the old mermaid who is making her reappearance. We saw her last Fall with the launch of Pike Place Blend – she was on the coffee packaging and on all the paper cups. She’s also the beacon for the original Starbucks store in Pike Place Market.

I had a chance to speak to one of the Starbucks designers and this is the first store launched under a new concept called “Heritage”. As I recall from my days at Starbucks, this concept has been in the works for quite some time and draws it’s inspiration from…. guess what? You got it - the heritage of Starbucks and the traditional coffeehouse.

It’s a beautiful store. From the outside there’s lots of glass (notice the glass overhang to protect patrons from the famous Seattle rain), wooded blinds frame the windows and there is a Parisian cafĂ© style patio with marble top tables and wicker chairs. Inside the colours are warm – dark browns and large chalk boards instead of the usual “QSR” style menu boards. It’s also a Leeds certified building.

This place is probably about 3000’ feet and including the patio could seat maybe 50 people. Given it’s prominence to the entrance of Pike Place Market, Seattle’s #1 tourist draw, this store will easily be a $2.5 to $3 million dollar store for Starbucks.

This is a good sign for Starbucks. They know that their success resides in creating the “Third Place” but over the last couple of years we’ve seen stores built with cheap seats and horrible acoustics. We’ve been terrorized by blenders and loud music from tinny speakers. Business meetings become shouting matches. No fun.

So here’s my question……what about the other 8000 or so stores that need TLC??? When will you fix “My Starbucks”?

OK - perhaps I’ll walk the 3 extra blocks to this new one.

1 comment:

  1. I had the opportunity to visit the new Heritage store this afternoon and absolutely love it. I love it not because of the chairs and logo and colours and location etc., but I love it because Starbucks is making a very public announcement with this store:

    "Screw You."

    Let's face it, Starbucks has been floundering ever since Howard Schultz made his very public return to the helm of the company just a little over a year ago, and things have been sliding downhill ever since.

    Sure, one could argue that the economy hasn't favoured disposable income being spent frivolously at any number of Starbucks locations, but in my opinion, Schultz began playing that economic "woe" card too soon and too hard. Which in turn, fully and with conviction, scapegoated the loss of the brand to something out of his control.


    Yes, this Heritage Store is now a magnificent example of how to do something positive in the midst of an economic recession. How to announce to the general public "We're here to stay!" if only in Seattle. I would advise Starbucks, however, to advance with any other store remodel interests with paid due diligence. For too fast a move would beg the question: Is Starbucks closing locations to asset their way into brand nostalgia at too great a cost? That nostalgia I can remember when burning my draft card and pegging anything corporate as the evil of society was the substance of trend and conversation -- coffee not in hand.