Starbucks: It’s Official

In late April, after passing along the rumor that a Starbucks is coming to 34 Leonard (at W. Broadway), I began to get nervous: The windows were briefly papered and then uncovered, and nothing seemed to be happening. Well, I’ve just learned that Starbucks has indeed leased the northern storefront, and the store is scheduled to open in September 2011. The space is 1,600 square feet, which is about average, or so I saw somewhere online (though it still seems large to me). The storefront to the south remains unleased as of yet.

What’s more interesting is that, in the tipster’s words, it’ll be “an all-new special Starbucks design unlike any they have done before.”

Starbucks is one of those companies that’s always “reinventing” itself—see its streamlined logo—so the idea of a new store design rang a bell. I emailed them to see if I could get more info, but I’m not holding my breath.

Turning to the Internet….

In March 2009, according to the Starbucks blog, a Seattle store (1st Ave. at Pike St.) was “the first store to be built using our new design concept that connects our stores to our coffee heritage. […] Inspired by our original store at Pike Place Market, this new store […] uses local materials and green design to enhance the customer experience. This new store design is part of our effort to have all of our new company-operated stores worldwide certified green by the end of 2010 under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. […] The store at 1st Ave @ Pike Street incorporates reused materials and finishes from the Cascadia bio-region.” (Show me your bio-region and I’ll show you mine!) Two photos from the blog:

Not so different, right? A few months later, in July of 2009, PSFK reported that Starbucks planned “to create new environments that will try to re-explore the spirit of a traditional coffeehouse including the sale of wine and beer plus playing host to live music and poetry readings. Last Friday, the Seattle based corporation opened 15th Avenue E Coffee and Tea—the first of these ‘stealth stores.'” These two photos are from that post; it calls to mind an American take on Le Pain Quotidien.

In October of 2010, USA Today said Starbucks had “unveiled a new store design that could be the prototype for its next generation of stores” (this is per CSNews Foodservice Retailing, which summarizes the USA Today article without linking to it—tsk tsk—and USA Today’s search function appears to be busted). “The floor is stripped to highly polished concrete. Some of the chairs were salvaged from the University of Washington campus. Empty burlap sacks once used to transport Starbucks coffee beans hang from the walls.” Wait, isn’t that what’s happening in the first batch of photos? “And an oversized table—designed for customers to share—is made from flooring salvaged from a local high school.” Ick. “Until now, two local cafes owned by Starbucks have been used as ‘living labs’ to test the new look and ambience of future stores, but without the Starbucks name. Instead, these two locations were named simply by their street locations, according to the newspaper report. But this one most assuredly is a Starbucks. A sign hoisted above the store, designed to mimic the antiquated sign above Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, can be seen from blocks away.” Here are photos from an article on the store from the Capitol Hill blog.

More recently, the Starbucks website has a press release about its new store in Zürich: “The Starbucks Zurich Central store design highlights the local community’s heritage, with inspiration being drawn from such iconic locations as Zurich Old Town, the main train station, the university and existing local architecture. Additionally, worn wood, tiled floors, metal stools, factory-inspired lighting,”—something about that doesn’t seem appealing at all—”large community tables, and club chairs all evoke the turn of the 20th century and are infused with the mercantile and dry goods elements of Starbucks first store located in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.” I couldn’t find any photos, but then I didn’t look that hard. I guess the takeaway from all this is that Starbucks seems to be trying to bring a bit of local design into its stores, but that even if it’s “all-new” it may still end up feeling more like a Starbucks than not.



  1. Interesting. It looks like Jack’s Stir Brew on Front Street, West Village and Amagansett: Local, organic-y, rustic. We’ll see about this “new” Starbucks….I wonder if they’ll be going back to their “real” heritage of grinding coffee — so it even smells like a real coffee house — like they used to??

  2. What the neighborhood really needs is yet ANOTHER Starbucks!

  3. Yay for coffee! Thank god it’s not ANOTHER “art” gallery or kids’ clothing store!