Does mediocre coffee taste better in a pretty building? Starbucks storefront design abroad

In the summer of 1998 several glorious things happened. I graduated from high school, I went to NYC to study ballet, and I discovered Starbucks. The mocha frappuccino was like nothing I had experienced before and even though my weekly “allowance” in NYC was $100/week and the drinks were $3+ each,  I felt so sophisticated drinking one as I walked down 6th Ave. So much so that when I returned home, I would drive from Conroe to Willowbrook for a taste of NYC in a plastic cup of caffeine.

Starbucks has definitely lost it’s charm for me and I much prefer my Nespresso machine cappuccinos to anything I could purchase at one of the zillion stores that surround me but the success, saturation, and cultural phenomenon of a chain coffee store that convinces you to spend $3 – $5 / cup cannot be denied. Houston, in fact, has received public ridicule for the intersection of Shepherd and West Gray in River Oaks where two Starbucks sit directly across from one another. For me — there is a Starbucks walking distance from my house, 2 within 2 miles, and, of course, the one in my office building.

The fact of the matter is that Starbucks are everywhere, and that special green color that inhabits space with a mermaid is a logo that is no longer read but is absorbed as we walk by it.

Let’s not forget, however, that Starbucks are not just here in the US. In fact, when JB and I were in Madrid, there was a Starbucks around the corner from our hotel – directly across from El Prado. You would think that with a historically “coffee shop / cafe” culture, many cities like Madrid and Paris would have no use for a chain of American shops and yet they do. Starbucks has over 17,000 stores around the world in countries from Qatar and Hong Kong to Brazil and Egypt in addition to the stores saturating Europe.

The clever folks at Starbucks, however, realized that in order to really “make it” in cities outside of the US, their orientation towards the design of their stores would have to change. In fact, in Madrid, our Starbucks had cool furniture and local art, a far cry from the McDonald’s style store I encounter.

In Architectural Record this month, they featured design from Starbucks around the world. Most of these were created by the in-house team at Starbucks.

Here is the store in Amsterdam:

Fukuoka, Japan

Dazaifu, Japan

3 thoughts

  1. Doesn’t anyone drink Folgers made at the house anymore? Its cheaper and made to suit your own taste. If on the go … use a thermos. Aren’t there any real coffee drinkers left? Or are there only artsy fartsy yuppie pinko wusses left? Just think of how much one could save and contribute there their IRA’s.
    Big Daddy

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