Last year, my local Starbucks location slated to close. Okay, “my local Starbucks” is a joke, since there are five Starbucks within a short walk of my house. Anyway, one of them was put on the closure list.
Instead of closing, however, it shut down for a couple of weeks and has now reopened as 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea, “your local coffeehouse.” (Here’s a Seattle P-I story about the place, along with great photos by Josh Trujillo.) Among my neighbors, this is going over about as well as a gorilla dressing up in a suit and trying to convince you that he is really human, honest.
To design 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea, Starbucks employees spent months hanging out in the other coffee and tea places on 15th, as well as bars like Smith, taking notes. No, seriously. In a related development, I have John Updike peeking over my shoulder right now to see how a real independent writer does his thing. (What, John Updike is dead? Okay, maybe it’s Philip Roth.)
I went to check the place out this morning, and I was too impatient to wait on line, but I enjoyed the well-choreographed protest going on outside. There was a guy dressed up as Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and a couple of women in green aprons, welcoming you to “the first local coffeehouse ever on Capitol Hill.” I went in to take a look around, and on the way out, the Schultz-alike asked, “How was the smell? Did we get that right? It was a point of contention down at the main office. I mean the LOCAL office.”
Don’t get me wrong–I don’t hate the new place. I think it injects a needed bit of whimsy into the local coffee landscape. The local places I frequent seem worried. I don’t think they need to be. Authenticity is really hard to fake, no matter how talented your clipboard guys are. Some people don’t care about authenticity, of course, but those people were already going to the Starbucks.
Oh, one postscript: the new Fauxbucks serves beer and wine. In 2005, I wrote an article about drinking beer at coffeehouses. In it, I said:
It will not surprise you to learn that no Starbucks locations serve beer, and a spokeswoman chuckled when I suggested it.
Who’s laughing now?