15th Avenue Coffee and Tea Starbucks New Concept Store

Starbucks neighborhood concept shop

Remember experimenting with alcohol and changing your name? Well, it must be Starbucks’ freshman year at college because they will be launching a new “neighborhood” concept store next week under the name “15th Avenue Coffee & Tea” that adds beer and win to the menu.

As always, I had a few thoughts on the subject, which were kindly quoted by the Associated Press:

Andrew Hetzel, the founder of coffee consulting group Cafemakers, said Starbucks may also be renaming its stores to provide a testing ground for changes and, possibly, to bring in a new brand of consumer.

“It looks to me that they are testing a specialty sub-brand to see if they can capture some other segment of the market that would otherwise be disillusioned by a large corporate chain,” Hetzel said, adding that opening only one at first “gives them a live shop to test changes in menu offerings, store design and, perhaps, procedures quickly” without disrupting operating stores branded with the Starbucks name.

You can read the full story tomorrow in many newspapers that subscribe the AP feed, or find it online now on news websites, like CBS News. These syndicated articles tend to disappear after some length of time, so if reading this long after the event, you may need to search online to find a different copy. It’s unlikely that I will return to update the link.

In addition to what was quoted in the article, I have a few more thoughts:

The best of any specialty food businesses cannot exist on a large scale, so a smaller scale business will ultimately need to be spun off if Starbucks wishes to compete in the high end specialty coffee market.

Think of the situation in terms of a restaurant — the best fine dining restaurants are normally one single unit or a very small chain. Once you expand to two locations and beyond, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the same customer experience that could be found at the first. Chef skill, front of house training and availability of ingredients all become increasingly complex to maintain to a consistent level, so often sacrifices need to be made in the name of consistency over quality so that customers know what to expect when they walk through the door of every location. These problems multiply with 10, 100 and 1,000 units, and you can see what sacrifices Starbucks has made in order to grow beyond 16,000.

Just like a fine dining restaurant, the best of coffee shops have highly skilled baristas and often use unique coffees that may not be available in the quantities possible to serve a consistent menu at more than a handful of locations. I expect that we will be hearing more about this new concept over the next several months and possibly years.

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15th Avenue Coffee and Tea Starbucks New Concept Store

21 Responses

  1. I heard the news and think it’s brilliant. I love Starbucks, I agree with everything you say regarding growing so large that the “empire” loses touch etc.
    I also believe that in addition to coffee & tea, Starbucks has done something very well and that’s blending “all” the people in the community into the 3rd porch experience in the store.
    Now they have a way to fulfill that need for peolple that would like to keep the 3rd porch experience alive after 8:00pm.
    I see it as a responsible move and take my hat off to them for risking the sacred “Brand” and re-creating a new fun experience.
    I agree with Howard Behar when he said Starbucks isn’t a coffee business it’s a “people Business”
    I like their coffee(s), teas and icecream, now I’ll get to see how they blend the beers & wines.
    Thanks fo keeping us posted!

    Joel Semanko July 16, 2009 at 6:48 pm #
  2. Good for Starbucks. Everyone is so quick to forgot Starbucks was once an independent one location neighborhood venture. Because of good fortune and leadership, Starbucks became an international giant. I hate when we all get so wrapped up in the “I hate big corporations” game. Starbucks employees hundreds of thousand of people and they treat their employees well. Good luck to Starbucks and wow what a great ideas. Good job!

    July 17, 2009 at 3:17 am #
  3. Well… I’m not so sure that I share the positive sentiment just yet. It is unfortunate that they have positioned the business in direct proximity to some real neighborhood coffee houses, such as Victrola (though, unless dramatic measures are taken to improve their coffee beverage quality, I don’t see the new test store as being any threat). We’ll have to wait an see if this is an attempt to get back to one’s roots or merely a facade of doing the same.

    Andrew Hetzel July 17, 2009 at 9:07 am #
  4. It was about time!

    Europe has been doing this for decades and it is awesome. Hopefully they will be able to have rums, Baileys, Kahlua and Licor43.
    I add them to my coffee every AM!

    July 18, 2009 at 4:23 am #
  5. John, Starbucks started as a neighborhood Roastery in Pike’s Place. It wasn’t until somekid form New York came along and decided to take the coffee business into the stratosphere (the folks who owned it originally were big fans of Peet’s, and one of them has joined Peet’s) and make it a giant corporation. It wasn’t that they were a small mom & pop that did really well, the course they followed was one that Howard Schultz set for them.
    Yep, Starbucks used to be nice, and now it isn’t, not because it is a giant corporation, but because it has done all the things that a giant corporation does to become giant. In short, sell out.
    As Howard Schultz said,”We are not in the business of selling coffee.”
    (Feb 3rd, 2007 addressing the Levin Institute at Bloomberg’s HQ in NY)
    In fact they are in the making money business. Coffee is a by product, which is why it has been expendable. If they were in the business of selling coffee, they’d be paying far more attention to the quality of their product.

    July 18, 2009 at 4:42 pm #
  6. Hello,

    does anyone knows how much it would be to open a starbucks coffee shop ?

    Thanks,

    July 19, 2009 at 9:03 pm #
  7. Kristina,

    They don’t franchise.

    July 20, 2009 at 6:06 am #
  8. Yeah, i know that, thanks :) But still they can work with u to open together a coffee shop in ur own country ( wherever u are ), so this is what i am interested in and wondering how much that would cost ????

    July 21, 2009 at 3:54 am #
  9. Our love/hate relationship with Specialty Coffee and cafe’s belies the cutthroat, competetive business of coffee. Starbucks is a case study in duality, symbolizing corporate American greed and excess for some and independent, penny university coffee house with all the countercultural trimmings and artsy vibe that go with it. This is basically capitulation to both ideals. And a smart move. But, don’t be fooled, there is no panacea in coffee. Its tough tough tough business.

    Kurt July 21, 2009 at 3:22 pm #
  10. this is not simply an i hate corporations game.
    starbucks has, to some extent, earned its shaky reputation.
    starbucks has a history of curtailing rules and stomping on little guys. a prime example is their response to the fair trade market. entering into the market begrudgingly at the last minute, they have somehow gotten away with only purchasing a measly 2% of their coffee via fair trade.
    true, this is a huge amount of coffee in the global economy. but just imagine how much good would come out of starbucks just adding, for example, espresso beans to that tally.
    overall, i find that starbucks stores lack flavor. individuality. and passion. maybe it did start out as an independant store, but that is not who it is now.
    they are stifling, and i’m tired of drinking my coffee out of a cookie cutter.

    July 27, 2009 at 9:54 pm #
  11. I had to respond to the last comment which contains some inaccuracies. Firstly Starbucks have been paying coffee farmers MORE than the Fairtrade price for many many years through their own ethical sourcing programme, and supporting coffee growing countries with a multitude of projects including clean water, schools, medical centres etc across Africa and Latin America. Their relationship with Fairtrade is late coming, not because they wouldn’t get involved with Fairtrade, but because of other factors which are not made public. Clearly after many years of negotiation the issues have been overcome to allow them to become the largest purchaser of Fairtrade coffee, whilst also maintaining their existing ethical sourcing.

    The problem for Starbucks is the watering down of their passion and ethics when it is spread across so many stores. Any store is only as good as its staff on the ground, and if they don’t care, then the customer experience will always suffer, regardless of brand name or local independent store.

    I hope this new concept will get Starbucks back in touch with its community and that the staff running it are truly passionate, otherwise it will fall flat unfortunately.

    As for subterfuge – people will always have something bad to say about Starbucks, and any other corporation, it goes with the territory, but it seems like a good business move to explore new concepts, and if Starbucks had really wanted it to be quiet that this store was their concept, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion!

    July 28, 2009 at 12:00 am #
  12. Don’t know if the new “15th Avenue” branding is gonna work – i.e. attract a different kind of customer than the old Starbucks – but I can say that Starbucks is ahead of the curve with this one, since now (after the 2008 crash) the design of the old Starbucks seems “bloated”, “suburbanish”, and “irrelevant” these days whenever I walk into one – a haunting reminder of flush times now gone. I’ve never understood why corps always take a “cookie-cutter” approach to retail store design anyway, when many parts of the US are so vastly different from one another. If Starbucks was even smarter, they’d not only “down-home” their retail outlets a bit more, they’d do well to recognize regional differences and reflect these differences in their store designs.

    August 26, 2009 at 8:33 am #
  13. Interesting thoughts on the tensions between quality and quantity – both in the post and the comments.

    On a tangential note, I discovered this post by googling “15th ave e coffee & tea”, and whatever plugin you are using for highlighting google search terms in the post made everything very hard to read (e.g., it highlighted every “e” in the post and comments).

    Joe McCarthy November 7, 2009 at 7:28 am #
  14. Whatever Starbucks is trying to accomplish, give them credit. Starbucks got as big as it is by forgetting about the naysayers.

    Someone once said that the law of floatation was not discovered by contemplating the sinking of things. Also Marcus Aurelius stated, “Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone to accomplish.”

    November 23, 2009 at 2:09 am #
  15. Its the same old Walmart dilemma–big bad corporation [which was once a one-store operation in both these cases by the way] comes to town and ruins it for mom and pop.
    I say victory goes to whomever makes a bettter product, that’s all.
    These articles are largely bulls.hit.

    November 23, 2009 at 6:22 am #
  16. It’s not a “better” product, it’s a CHEAPER product- at least in the case of WalMart. And just because the masses, who require 45 grams of sugar in each beverage they consume, or better yet, artificial sweeteners laced with neurotoxins, that doesn’t necessarily make corporately funded Starbucks “better” than a smaller scale operation. It’s a different objective the resonates through all aspects of of a small business which they will not be able to duplicate.

    November 23, 2009 at 7:49 am #
  17. Sarine, You must be the goddess of reason. Your point was well put.

    November 23, 2009 at 10:54 am #
  18. Well thankyou very much for all of the informative facts from the Starbucks PR team posters on here. Alas I’m afraid I’m going to have to side with the “I think this is a bad idea” team. As mentioned above, yes starbucks do serve fair trade coffee, of course they never mention in their advertising that it’s taken decades of campaigning to get them to do so. And yes, starbucks are popular. Once again, what’s not mentioned in the advertising is the forcing local coffee shops out of business, offering their land lords cash to kick them out, sacking anyone who tries to form a union, refusing to give anyone full time hours and the benefits that entails, making up their own privately monitored version of fair trade “commitments to origins’ so that they didn’t have to sell fair trade, and the many many many other nasty things this company have done in order to get into the place they are now.

    Now it seems that they are too big, so they’ve decided to dress their wolf up in sheep’s clothing to try and wrestle more control over the market and put more small businesses out on the street.

    robin February 26, 2010 at 1:07 am #
  19. It’s a good thing that those two people that petitioned in front of the old Starbucks and to the new 15th Ave. Coffee and Tea were able and generous to spend their own time to keep this space available. I’m glad that the 15th Ave. Coffee and Tea is here… makes my day bearable to know that there is one good positive place that I can spend my free time!! Thanks guys!!!

    June 17, 2010 at 9:18 am #
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