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The Seattle Times reports that Starbucks today will open a new, 15,000 square foot emporium in the city's Capitol Hill district that the story says is "a hybrid of a roastery and a cafe, where some of the world’s most exclusive beans will be roasted right in front of the eyes — and noses — of customers."

According to the story, "The store represents the latest move by the Seattle coffee empire to upstage competitors in the raging market for super-high-quality coffee. It also underscores how Starbucks needs to relentlessly tweak its offerings to fuel growing at the breakneck pace investors have come to expect of it.

"Over the next five years, the company aims to nearly double its annual revenue to about $30 billion. That growth target comes at a challenging time as retailers have seen foot traffic decrease in the U.S. as shoppers migrate online. So the company needs to diversify its offerings and lure customers not only during the morning but throughout the day."

Here's how the story describes the new location:

"The space is divided into several areas.

A main bar will be where most people will get their coffee; it’s lower than seen in many Starbucks stores, giving customers a view of the preparation methods for espresso and other drinks, said Muller.

There’s a second coffee-sipping area dubbed the 'Coffee Experience Bar,' where more experimental methods — from pour-overs to siphons — will be used, and where Starbucks 'coffee masters' will give classes. That area can also be reserved for events.

There’s also a 'scooping bar,' where customers can buy fresh beans.

For the hungry souls, sharing the same cavernous space, there’s a new, 50-seat incarnation of Tom Douglas’ pizzeria, Serious Pie. There’s also a library with a meeting table and more than 200 books related to coffee."

The New York Times writes that "with this new venture, Starbucks has signaled that it intends to lure aficionados of high-end coffee, as it eyes the growing market for rare coffees, those beans grown in small quantities that sell for as much as $45 for less than a pound.

"But it already faces considerable competition from boutique chains like Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Dillanos Coffee Roasters and Blue Bottle Coffee that have already developed thriving businesses in what are known as single-origin coffees and microlots. Such coffees come from a single farm or small collective, typically hard to reach and fickle, so that production is limited and often available only at specific times of the year. Their customers tend to shun the sort of big-business ubiquity that a mass-coffee purveyor like Starbucks embodies."

The Times also writes that the new store "is rumored to have cost more than $20 million. Part retail store, part manufacturing facility and part theater, the store intentionally evokes the chocolate room where Augustus Gloop met his fate in Willy Wonka’s candy factory. See-through tubes snake up out of the floor and under the ceiling, ferrying green coffee beans to copper-clad roasters and roasted beans to the coffee bars scattered like islands around the 15,000-square-foot space."

In other Starbucks news…

• At the company's annual Investors Day yesterday in Seattle, CEO Howard Schultz took the opportunity to criticize the nation's governmental and political classes: "The country is definitely not going in the right direction. There is a significant void of leadership in America and around the world … I strongly believe that businesses and business leaders have a significant responsibility to do all we can to bring our people along with us and share our significant success...and not wait for Washington because the void of leadership is getting bigger and bigger."

• The Wall Street Journal reports that Starbucks "plans to dramatically expand its evening food-and-alcoholic beverages program. It now has 32 cafes with such offerings, and plans to increase that over the next five years to more than 2,700 - equal to nearly a quarter of its more than 11,000 current U.S. stores. Some Starbucks cafes in Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles offer small plates of cheese, vegetables and flatbread pizza, along with desserts, wine and beer after 4 p.m." The opportunity, the company says, is even bigger than expected.
KC's View:
Just a few thoughts here…

Given a choice in Portland, I always go to Stumptown, not Starbucks … even though in most markets, Starbucks usually is the easy and first choice. Stumptown just seems more authentic to me. That's something that I think is important. The Willy Wonka metaphor was used in a lot of stories, and I'd be careful about that if I were Starbucks … there is a plasticity to that image (IMHO) that could undermine its efforts.

As for Howard Schultz's political activism, here's my question: Could a guy like that mount a legitimate independent campaign for the presidency? I'm not sure that's what he has in mind, and I've certainly had my moments when I've been critical of Schultz. But … there is a part of me that would love to see someone like that running the country.