Friday, March 19, 2010

Reinventing a Star(buck)

The coffee phenom only really became evident to me when Starbucks entered the coffee market - mainly because I was 15 and loved hanging out after school, smoking cigarettes and the local outdoor seating at Starbucks was the only place we were allowed to do it (because we weren't 18 and legally allowed to buy our soft packs). But just as vivid, is the day that Starbucks "suddenly" pulled closed the doors of most of its coffee houses in multiple countries around the world - though for an entirely different reason (I was studying marketing and consumer behaviour and though it would make a good case study!).

It seems that Starbucks, on the sly, had realised that it had lost its original niche appeal. They'd sold out, and become a global phenomenon and regardless of any money troubles, the brand had recognised that what had attracted its loyal customers at the start, was dribbling away with every photo published of a celebrity holding a mocha-frappe-latte* (Britney!?). *NOTE: I've heard that coffee in NYC is RUBBISH and Starbucks is one of the only places you can get a good cup. So Mary-Kate you are forgiven for carrying your grande with pride).

Launched in Seattle as a neighbourhood-grassroots concept store was 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea House (328 15th Ave ESeattle, WA 98112). THIS is what Starbucks really wants to be. And you have to congratulate them for pulling up their socks and taking a step back from the mass marketed beast they had become. Some suggest that it's a 'stealth' store but whatever the name, I do think that its important that they are returning to the original vibe of coffee houses and selling wine and beer plus playing host to live music and poetry readings. Everything is manual - there is no press of the button/coffee served here and the rustic interiors add to the feel. I'd drink a coffee from here just to pay a big brand having the sense to reevaluate.

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