Virtual Road Trip: Seattle Starbucks Reflect Company’s Past and Future

When Starbucks was founded in Seattle in 1971, the city was still considered by many to be a frontier town. Not as polished as New York, Boston, or San Francisco. A little wild perhaps, with its rugged mountains and abundant evergreen trees.

Yet from just a single store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, Starbucks has grown to serve over 70 million customers a week in more than 20,000 stores in 65 countries around the world.

“Starbucks has been a part of Seattle’s coffee story for more than 40 years, and has helped shaped the city’s coffeehouse culture,” said Brian van Stipdonk, Starbucks senior designer for its Western Pacific region. “While we embrace that rich tradition, our store designs are also looking ahead to evolve with the ever-changing city.”

With a nod to the brand’s Seattle roots, van Stipdonk takes us on a tour of some of the city’s new Starbucks® stores within just a few miles of where it all began.

Broadway and Pike

Just a mile from Starbucks first store in Pike Place Market is a Starbucks at Broadway and East Pike Street in the heart of Capitol Hill. The location, in a historic bank building built more than a century ago, is on a busy corner near a community college, restaurants, pubs, and boutiques. The design team refreshed the brick exterior and restored a quirky eagle clock that stands sentry above vintage double doors.

Inside, the design team brought in rich materials and wainscoting reminiscent of detailing found in the original space. A glossy black bar floats on a border of white mosaic tile, setting off the rustic wood flooring.  An open-air food case places La Boulange™ baked goods in an environment that evokes the feeling of a French bakery.

“The design celebrates the heritage of our brand with mercantile elements that reference the original Pike Place store,” van Stipdonk said. “Our approach here was to respect the heritage of the building and acknowledge Starbucks history.”

University Village III

Ten minutes north of Starbucks Broadway and Pike store is the University Village outdoor shopping mall near the University of Washington. Starbucks has had a presence in the University Village since 1972, when it opened the company’s second location.  The new Starbucks Reserve™ location brings another dimension of the Starbucks Experience to visitors.

The design features a neutral color palate, with raw woods, steel and concrete. The bar and back wall are made with stacked reclaimed wood, the painted brick adds texture, and the menu is neatly handwritten in chalk. Angled mirrors behind the bar bring light into the space and allow customers to watch as baristas create their beverages. Rich displays of coffee artifacts invite discovery and hand-stitched printed maps connect customers to the farms around the world that grow Starbucks coffee.

“The coffee story is told through objects, elements, images and words,” van Stipdonk said. “There is a constant dialogue between the raw and the refined.”


Five miles south of University Village, down to the shores of Lake Washington, is the quiet residential neighborhood of Leschi. Starbucks has been a community gathering place for more than 15 years, and a favorite stop for bicycle clubs that ride along scenic Lake Washington Boulevard.

When the design team renovated the space in 2014, they worked to preserve the intimacy of the space while improving the flow and functionality. The new design expanded the seating area by bringing the vestibule out, and the team brought in thoughtful pieces and lighting that maximize the smaller space. A wall of upcycled bicycle tubes celebrates the neighborhood’s cycling tradition.

“It is a very tailored store, but also warm and inviting,” he said. “The rich copper pendant lights are a beacon on cold, Pacific Northwest nights.”

First and Marion

Travel three miles west from the Leschi store, and we return to downtown Seattle and the shores of Elliott Bay.

Less than a dozen blocks from the original Pike Place store, the First and Marion café is just steps from the main downtown Seattle ferry terminal’s Colman Dock. Since 2002, the space has occupied a small footprint with a handful of tables, where customers can pop in for a minute or two and still catch the ferry on time. Starbucks muralist Michael Martinez created a custom mural for the space that playfully depicts Colman Dock in its heyday in the 1930s.

“The design makes a big impression on customers even in a small space,” he said. “It’s a place customers come back to time after time and grab a cup of coffee before catching a ferry out to the Puget Sound, for the next adventure.”

Did You Know?

  • The University Village I store received LEED® Gold certification for excellence in environmental performance in 2010 by the U.S. Green Building Council.
  • The Washington State Ferry System is the largest ferry system in the United States and the state's top tourist attraction.
  • Seattle officially became the “Emerald City” in 1982 when it won a naming contest sponsored by the Seattle-King County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For Your Travels

For the adventurous of heart, pick up a pound of Starbucks® Organic Yukon Blend,® named after the North American wilderness. Lively acidity and deep, earthy notes meld together in this classic blend of lively Latin American coffees along with the heft and the lingering herbal spiciness from Sumatran beans.

Editor's Note

This summer our virtual road trip stories, by Starbucks writer Heidi Peiper, covered over 40,000 miles to 55 stores in 18 countries. Find more Starbucks store design images on Pinterest.

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How Starbucks partners help create change, one community at a time, with Neighborhood Grants