What is it about Seattle and Starbucks? I’m a homegrown Seattleite and was working at UPS when the only Starbucks stores were in Seattle. At that time they were shipping their beans in great quantities to all the mom and pop coffee shops around the country as they made a skeleton map of all the stores they would later put out of business.
Besides being the evil empire of coffee, we Seattleites know the pain that Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz dealt us when he sold our beloved Super Sonics to Clay Bennett; a man with obvious intentions to relocate the team. How does he rip our heart out and still offer us comfort sips?
There is a funny quote from Howard Schultz’s book, Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul. It is, “There is a word that comes to my mind when I think about our company and our people. That word is ‘love.’ I love Starbucks because everything we’ve tried to do is steeped in humanity.”
Is he for real? I mean you understand his success. He’s a brilliant talker and motivator, but come on. Was it love to rip the heart out of a community by first trading our beloved Gary Payton and then getting rid of the team altogether? Was it love to open up shops right across the street from all of the successful local coffee houses and then put them out of business?
I went back to Seattle this year after 5 years away and I was saddened to see a carnival line always winding out of the Starbucks stores. I was even sadder to see myself in those lines. I mean it was one of the things that I was looking forward to when coming back to the US after 5 years in India… Starbucks. Why?
We used to be a cool city. When I was growing up we had Alice and Chains, Sir Mixalot, Nirvana. We were the birth place of Jimi Hendrix. Now we are the birth place of the Death Star.
Now that Seattle has legalized marijuana you’d think that we could move on from the Starbucks craze, and force relocation to Portland or somewhere, but coffee is a drug that we just can’t seem to give up. Besides the headaches that come from withdrawal you’d think that it would be an easy recovery, but day after day, we line up like sheep for our three dollar initiation into the new morning.
With the crowds, we can’t pretend that it is hip or cool anymore – and it’s not – but still we need it. In Seattle you’ll find a carousel of other popular shops, such as Tully’s and Peets, but the Starbucks line is still where people want to be. I mean, Peets is stronger and Tully’s is smoother, but Starbucks still gets all the business. I’m starting to think that they are putting a little more in the coffee than just that particular drug.
I’ll admit that I tried and failed many times to give up coffee. The last time I tried was 14 years ago, and I had given it up for two years. I started again when my dad had open heart surgery and spent a couple of weeks in the hospital for recovery. I would sneak down to the cafeteria and hide in the corner and melt the hospital brain freeze away in glorious cups of brew. It was the scythe to cut through whatever emotional turmoil I was going through. And after I left the hospital I made a solemn vow that I would never give up coffee again. I’ve kept that vow for the last 12 years. Commendable? Well, anyways.
I would never ask another person to give up their coffee, but I have to wonder: What is it about Starbucks?
For the weekly writing challenge to use the 5 nouns Skeleton, Scythe, Carnival, Carousel, Crowd
Featured photo via http://www.commons.wikimedia.org