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Starbucks on Eve of 30th Anniversary

September 6, 2001

SEATTLE (AP) _ Jorge Shaw was worried about his Starbucks triple-shot espresso. The paper cup _ picked up for him by one of his salon customers _ wasn’t the usual size and it was after 10 a.m.

``None of that fancy stuff, give me that straight espresso,″ said Shaw, manager of Brooklyn Beaute Salon. ``I need my speed.″

For residents of Seattle, fancy coffee frames the day _ from a morning pick-me-up to evening relaxation time. People stroll the streets with coffee drinks in hand or meet their friends over lattes at one of the city’s hundreds of coffee houses.

But that ``coffee culture″ started largely in a tiny coffee shop in the Pike Place Market 30 years ago. The first Starbucks opened in 1971, and since then, the company has grown to 4,600 stores serving up lattes and espressos in 21 countries on four continents.

And the phenomenal growth is just the beginning. Starbucks, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary at selected stores Friday, is going global in a big way.

Chairman Howard Schultz, its charismatic lead marketer, said the quality of coffee, soft seating, design, music, and social atmosphere all create an experience, making Starbucks a ``third place″ outside home and work.

``It’s not an American theme, it has a universal language because the relevancy of Starbucks, the third place, the quality of the coffee, the social atmosphere, the romance, all of these things are as relevant in Singapore and China as they are in Zurich or Seattle,″ he said.

And while everyone is dealing with societal pressures from long work hours and juggling professional and personal lives, Starbucks fills a need, he said.

In the Insadong area of downtown Seoul, South Korea, customers in their 20s line up for a bewildering array of Starbucks choices.

People swarm into Starbucks stores in Tokyo and walk out proudly with lattes and frappuccinos.

Most recently, a store opened in Tel Aviv on Aug. 30. There are plans to open somewhere in Latin America, possibly next year.

Schultz said critics have contended the company would have a tough time in Europe, where the coffee culture was well established. That’s where Schultz discovered Italian coffee bars many years ago before developing the concept in the United States.

He’s hopeful Europeans will buy the Starbucks experience, too. The company’s first stores in Switzerland opened earlier this year.

Analyst Greg Schroeder of Fulcrum Global Partners in New York said Starbucks has moved from a regional company to a global presence in only 10 years.

``The speed is really remarkable,″ he said. Most companies such as McDonald’s needed much longer for such a transformation, he said.

``Coffee is something people drink around the world,″ he said. ``As long as the brand is received well by consumers in other countries, the growth opportunities are really endless.″

Not everything has been golden. Starbucks stumbled on Internet ventures two years ago. The company had to write off its investment in living.com, a home-furnishings Web retailer that filed for bankruptcy last year.

But Schroeder said that the company has generally found good partners for ventures into other areas, including ice cream.

``Whenever they extend beyond their core competency, they have found a capable partner and an experienced partner,″ he said.

Chief executive Orin Smith said the company learned from its failed Internet ventures.

``We’re pretty focused on what we’re best at,″ he said. ``We’re a good coffee company and we think we do a good job at retail and that’s what we’re trying to do right now.″


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