I was talking to my sister back in Seattle on the phone tonight and she told me that the Starbucks on 15th Avenue in Seattle had changed its name to "15th Avenue Coffee and Tea." But it's still owned by Starbucks; they are just rebranding three of their Seattle locations with unique names. You can read about it in the Seattle Times here and here in the Chicago Tribune.
I used to walk by that Starbucks twice a day on my way to and from work at Victrola, so I can picture exactly what my sister was talking about. A few years ago, when I really saw the full potential of the super-specialty movement in coffee, I predicted that Starbucks would come out with a new brand to compete. In my mind, they would come out with a separate brand that was a "more funky/sophisticated" take on regular Starbucks, give it a different name, make the colors forest green instead of emerald green, and actually train the baristas how to make excellent coffee; they would open these stores only in certain locations (15th Ave in Seattle being exactly the kind of neighborhood that would sustain one).
I guess I was wrong. Starbucks has done my idea one up, and decided to go with unique, locally-branded shops. I actually think it's not a bad idea, especially if they can really give the new stores each a unique feel. And according to the article they'll be using manual espresso machines, not the super-automatics. Awesome!
A lot of people expect me to hate on Starbucks when they find out what I do for a living. But I just can't. Starbucks is a trailblazer, and I wouldn't have a job if it wasn't for them. And as far as "evil empires" go, they're pretty lacking in the evil department. Travel around Latin America and see the development work they have done and it will de-snark you some. People love to see the big guys take it on the chin; but if you take a careful look at the way the coffee industry actually works, you will see that Starbucks is not the bad guy.
Nevertheless, I'm still an English major at heart and I do love a good dose of self-satire from time to time. In that spirit, I can't resist posting this positively Onion-esque line from the Seattle Times article:
The new names are meant to give the stores "a community personality," said Tim Pfeiffer, senior vice president of global design.