Virtual Road Trip: Touching a Piece of Starbucks History at the Pike Place Market Store

It is a store like no other.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of customers visit Starbucks first store in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market, snapping photos under the original brown logo with the words, Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spices. They walk across oak floors worn from a century’s use to the original wood counter where coffee is still scooped by hand.

“At Starbucks, we often say that we aren't in the coffee business serving people. We're in the people business serving coffee,” said Toni Reyes, a supervisor at the store. “That's exactly why our customers come to the Pike Place Starbucks. They want to experience a piece of history and share a part in Starbucks future.”

Starbucks began in just a narrow storefront in 1971 amongst the market’s bakeries, butcher shops, specialty food, fresh flowers and produce stands. Its purveyors offered fresh-roasted coffee in brown paper bags as fishmongers flung their daily catch at the open air arcade.

Across the cobblestone street where the fish still fly, today Starbucks baristas toss white paper cups from the cash register to the bar. It’s part tribute to the market spirit – and part necessity in a bustling store that has hardly changed in more than 40 years.

For more than a decade, the store sold only bulk coffee, tea, spices – with employees offering the occasional sample from a coffee press. An espresso bar was added in 1987 when Starbucks began to serve brewed coffee and espresso beverages, but no pastry case. As more people made the pilgrimage to Pike Place, the store began to offer special mugs, t-shirts and exclusive coffees for customers to commemorate their visit.

In 2009, Starbucks store design team unveiled its first concept store inspired by the heritage of the Pike Place Market just a few blocks away on the corner of First Avenue and Pike Street with rough-edged wood counters, recycled materials and industrial light fixtures reminiscent of the ones that still hang at Pike Place. Today, the design team incorporates these mercantile elements in many new stores and remodels – evoking the heritage of the first store for millions of customers around the world.

Did You Know?

  • Although its footprint is only 1,200 square feet, Pike Place has one of the highest sales volumes in the U.S.
  • The Pike Place store is one of the only Starbucks® locations in the world that does not serve food. The original lease stipulated that food could not be served, and that tradition is continued today.
  • The location was previously a seed store that served the livestock that were once sold at the market. A photo of the burlap sacks of seed hangs on the wall as a tribute.
  • Under the counter, more than a dozen bins still bear the brass labels for the original bulk coffees that were once stored there.
  • A large pig wrapped in burlap and coffee beans stands guard above the front door. “Pork ‘n’ Beans” was Starbucks entry to the Pigs on Parade competition in 2001 to raise money for the Pike Place Market Foundation.

For Your Travels

Customers can enjoy a piece of Starbucks history with Starbucks® Pike Place® Roast, which was inspired by the heritage that began in the Pike Place store. It has been a customer favorite since it was launched in 2008, and is now served to over six million customers per week – that’s more than 900,000 cups per day.

Our Next Stop

Join our virtual road trip as we take customers around the world on a tour of Starbucks stores this summer. Next week, we’ll head south to visit a few new Starbucks stores that shine among the bright lights of this desert city.

* Pike Place is a registered trademark of The Pike Place Market PDA, used under license.

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That’s a wrap! Tribeca Festival + Starbucks collab connects storytellers and film lovers over coffee