Starbucks Decides To Be Starbucks Again

Back in the summer of 2009, Starbucks began a strange experiment: caffeine dispensaries that were Starbucks-owned and operated, but had different branding and were decorated similarly to other neighborhood businesses. Like the coffee shops your neighborhood had before Starbucks came along. This is a sad month for the experiment, though: the first stealth Starbucks, 15th Ave. Coffee and Tea in Seattle, is closing at the end of January. It will become just another Starbucks.

The other stealth Starbucks shops will remain open for now.

Starbucks returns: The 15th Ave Coffee & Tea experiment is over [Capitol Hill Seattle] (Thanks, Tony!)

The Only Thing Left For Starbucks? To Just Stop Being Starbucks
Meet The First Stealth Starbucks: Seattle’s 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea


Edit Your Comment

  1. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    This idea was always doomed to fail. People who want Starbucks are going to ignore these stores and look for a Starbucks and people who don’t like Starbucks are probably going to take on sip and go “ewww tastes like Starbucks” and never return.

    • Gambrinus says:

      It seems to be based off of the idea that people who don’t like Starbucks are really just against the whole corporate image and want to support local companies. The problem is, of course, that Starbucks really doesn’t have very good coffee.

      • El_Red says:

        I agree, besides very expensive drinks (lattés, frappés, etc.) all drinks taste horrible to me.
        And due to expensive price tag, I probably go there once every 2-3 months.
        However, a small local coffee place makes excellent regular coffee, priced between 1-2$. It is so popular, they’ve expanded twice already.

      • Chaosium says:

        This was an attempt to stealth-Starbucks, but they went out of their way to make the coffee differently, modeled after more upscale coffeehouses. It tasted better (and MUCH better than sbux), but I still prefer the others.

    • Chaosium says:

      That location wasn’t doomed to fail, it’s right next to a hospital and had a guaranteed fanbase from it (even if there were better coffee shops a block or two away.)

      The location was fine, but the “experiment” is over.

    • kerry says:

      The location didn’t fail, it ran its course. It was never intended to be a permanent thing, it was built to test out ideas to be implemented at other Starbucks locations. Those ideas are now being implemented at regular Starbucks, so this store can go back to being a regular Starbucks. They’re just going to slap a new sign on it and bring it back into the regular Starbucks family. Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

  2. Bativac says:

    What is going on at Starbucks? It seems like a couple years back, they announced they were going “back to basics” with just concentrating on coffee. Then they started trying to open stealth “non-Starbucks” stores. Now they’ve dropped their name from the logo because they’re “more than just coffee.”

    Are sales bad enough that they are just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing if anything sticks?

    • flipflopsnpolos says:

      Good point. This is what happens when companies shift executives around. They just get a new title and feel the need to set their own personal mark, so they abandon all the previous momentum and start over on something new.

    • catskyfire says:

      It could also be that the fad that was Starbucks has faded, and they’re trying to get back to the huge profits.

    • meg99 says:

      I know that I have not purchased a bag of Starbucks beans in at least 3 years, and ever since the pikes place coffee came out as their only coffee of the day, I’ve forgotten about the other coffee varieties that I liked. When they used to shift around the coffee of the day it was much easier to try what you liked without a 12 dollar commitment to a whole bag of coffee. They make more money wih their expanded drink menu—so I think they are happy to get away from coffee and focus on moneymakers. They are losing many core customers though, and the free wifi that fills the store for hours with 100 dollars worth of customers who are making sb their new home office probably isn’t helping.

      • Bativac says:

        Yeah – I was never one of those core customers, but I used to go in there more often than I do now. It seems like they are always brewing the same coffee during the say whereas they used to mix it up a bit and give you a chance to try different stuff. I still go into a Starbucks occasionally, if there’s one nearby and I’m craving a cappuccino or something. I don’t particularly care for the coffee but I prefer light roast to the dark stuff Starbucks sells.

        It just seems like strange goings on at corporate headquarters. Concentrate on coffee and coffee-related drinks. Nobody really cares about your logo or your crappy prepackaged pre-made baked goods. Just make decent coffee.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Pikes Place isn’t the only coffee of the day. There’s usually Pike’s Place and a bold pick, which changes every day.

        • tdogg241 says:

          Just so you know, nothing bothers a Seattleite more than calling it “Pike’s Place.”

          • SeattleSeven says:

            Between “Pike’s Place” and “Nordstrom’s” I’m not sure why people insist on adding an S to everything from Seattle.

            • colorisnteverything says:

              Eh… in the Chicago area, we add an S on to everything, it seems. JC Penney’s, Carson’s, etc.

              • Geotpf says:

                If you don’t do that (with the name of a store), it looks really weird. There’s a jewelery store named Jered (advertises on TV a lot). Not Jered’s; just “Jered”. It just sounds so wrong.

        • meg99 says:

          Starbucks stops brewing the bold pick after 11 in my market (DC) so the coffee of the day option after 11 is Pikes place or decaf pikes place. There are some great regular roast coffees that are never sold by the cup.

          Baristas are supposed to french press any coffee you’d like and charge you for a coffee of the day if you don’t want pikes place but in the DC starbucks locations this just seems to be a way to make the Baristas strongly dislike you.

    • sonneillon says:

      We were in a recession, Starbucks is expensive. For a large latte I can get 128 cups of a generic coffee. And even if I go for a really good coffee the cost is still vastly cheaper than Starbucks.

    • BluePlastic says:

      Yeah, and weren’t they going to sell breakfast? Oatmeal or something? What happened to that?

      • angienessyo says:

        they have oatmeal and breakfast sandwiches. The oatmeal’s still around, I never go in time for the sandwiches

        • BluePlastic says:

          Thanks. I didn’t realize they still had that. I had never gone in to see. It just struck me as odd when I first heard about it. Oatmeal? Just seems weird. I guess if you’re in a hurry…???

  3. flipflopsnpolos says:

    This could become a bad PR move for the company as well, with the regulars from the stealth store believing that their favorite coffee shop was just “bought out” and replaced with a Starbucks.

    • Chaosium says:

      “This could become a bad PR move for the company as well, with the regulars from the stealth store believing that their favorite coffee shop was just “bought out” and replaced with a Starbucks.”

      Everyone in Seattle was aware that it was a Starbucks.

    • soj4life says:

      the customers already knew it was starbucks, most of the product inside had starbucks’ logo on it.

  4. Alexander says:

    People spend entirely too much time thinking about coffee and Starbucks. When I want coffee, it comes down to the 1st place I find after I decide I want coffee. At the market, it’s whatever stuff is on sale.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Ridiculous statement. Liking one coffee over another is merely discerning for yourself what you like to drink or eat. If you decide you want dinner, do you just stop at the first restaurant on the street? I hope not. What if you grab whatever coffee is on sale and you don’t like it? Would you get it again? If not, you’ve just shown preference and that’s the same thing people who go to one coffee shop and not another do as well. If so, you’re just a fool.

      • Hoot says:

        I’ve noticed your comments becoming a bit rowdier lately. I typically find you to be one of the nicer commentators on here; a breath of fresh air. Not criticizing – I just hope that everything is going alright in your life. :)

        Also, either of these observations could just be misconceptions on my part!

        Either way, always enjoy reading your posts.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          I’m just peachy! It’s just that sometimes I encounter a certain attitude that I just think is silly, like what you don’t do or like means it is shouldn’t be done or liked at all, by anyone. Sometimes I just come off crankier than I really am, but it’s all good in the pecan universe.

  5. u1itn0w2day says:

    I think Starbucks can only keep their books warm for so long. They desperately need actual revenues or increases in revenue to justify the temperature of their books.

    • tbiscuit360 says:

      Your statement is BS- they increased about 800 million in revenue from 2009-2010.
      I don’t think many stores out there can say that.

      • tbiscuit360 says:

        Actually to correct that, 1 billion dollar increase in revenue (I was looking at their retail stores alone for the 800 mil).

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        If their accounting is or was aggressive as some believe then most if not all increases would be negated. Just saying they survived the crash would be enough to keep the stock holders, media and longtime customers happy.

    • Bsamm09 says:

      That article didn’t really say anything noteworthy. Point out portions of their 10K that contain problems in their disclosures, notes and/or restatements w/ regards to revenue recognition or expense timing.

  6. Quake 'n' Shake says:

    Not unlike Ceasar’s Civl War, this is just a hiccup along the way towards Starbucks’ plan of world domination. Instead of a republic, they’ll rule us with an empire. No biggie really.

  7. tooluser says:

    However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that hot cup of java came in, the mystery was delightfully explained.

    Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favorite cup o’ joe before him, and the coffee being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition.

    We resumed business; and while drinking our last drops, thinks I to myself, I wonder now if this here has any effect on the head? What’s that stultifying saying about coffee-drinking people? “But look, Queequeg, ain’t that a live eel in your cup? Where’s your harpoon?”

  8. gman863 says:

    I have my own pet name for this type of thing: Drag Queen Marketing.

    If a guy shaves his body hair and puts on a wig, dress and makeup, he’s still a guy.

    If a Kmart store gets a quickie remodel and a new sign saying “Sears Essentials”, it’s still Kmart.

    If Starbucks opens a store called 15th Avenue…you get the idea.

  9. FreeShaggy says:

    Behold the power of Brand Recognition.

    This weekend I was at the DC Convention Center. GF wanted some coffee, I spotted the Starbucks logo and we walked over. As we got closer, we saw the long long line, then I spotted a small little cart selling coffee. Guess how long that line was.

    If you chose not a soul was lined up collect your prize.

    • pot_roast says:

      And you know, sometimes there is a very good reason for that. At least Starbucks is consistent. I’ve lived in areas with the “mom n’ pop” coffee shops. They usually had the worst coffee and brewed up whatever stuff they were buying in bulk from Costco.

  10. kerry says:

    It’s not closing, nor was the operation a failure. It was an experiment Starbucks ran to test out ideas before implementing them in regular Starbucks stores. The 15th Ave location isn’t going to close, they’re simply going to put a Starbucks sign on it. The operations they tested at that location have been introduced to main Starbucks stores now (like the new Olive Way Starbucks down the street) so they no longer need to run an experimental storefront. They are, however, keeping the other notBucks (Roy St Coffe & Tea) intact, presumably to work as an incubator for future ideas.

  11. TopNotch says:

    I almost spit up my Starbucks when I read this story.I stumbled across one of these stores at the airport. 1st thing I noticed is that their setup was exactly like a starbucks and they have the same drinks. I took one sip and knew it was Starbucks. I asked the server, Hey! is this Starbucks and she gave a big smile and said., NO! its better. You could tell she was getting a kick out of this. This seems like a waste of money. Remind me to sell my Starbuck stock.