Hidden history at Starbucks Pike Place Market store

Each day, thousands of people line up along the cobblestone street for a chance to visit Starbucks original store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. They take selfies under the weathered brown logo while partners make their beverages on the vintage-style manual espresso machine and bag coffee on the worn wooden counters.

“We have customers from all over the world who come to Pike Place,” said Cora Carter, who manages the store at 1912 Pike Place. “They want to see where it all began, and why it continues.”

One of Carter’s favorite things about the store is also one of the easiest to overlook. It’s a small steel wire coat hook that hangs just inside the front door. That hook was placed there in 1995 by store manager Alyson Edwards using a hammer from the back room.

“This story still gives me goosebumps,” said Edwards, who is now on the Starbucks Retail Learning team. “We had a regular customer at the store who was an older woman named Caroline. She was very opinionated, and I sometimes had to protect other customers from her mouth. But there was something about her I just loved.”

Every Saturday, Caroline would walk more than 10 miles to the Pike Place store from her home in West Seattle. The narrow 1,200-foot store did not have seating (and still doesn’t), and in colder weather she’d often grumble that there was nowhere to put her coat. Her things would usually wind up in the corner on the furrowed oak floors.

“It was the Saturday before Christmas, and I decided to do something for Caroline. So I went to the hardware store next door and bought a $2 coat hook,” Edwards said.

That day it had been sleeting, and when Caroline came in she complained that there was nowhere to hang her dripping coat. Edwards watched as Caroline turned around to see the shiny new hook with a big red bow on it.

“All of a sudden she sees it. And she’s just sobbing. She said it was the nicest thing that anyone had ever done for her,” Edwards said. “It shows that it’s not about the big things you do, but it’s those little things you do for your customers that make a difference.”

More than 20 years later, the hook has stayed in its place, its edges painted over with the white trim of the doorframe. In that time, the company grew from fewer than 700 stores in the United States and Canada to more than 26,000 in 75 countries. The store has become one of the busiest in the company, and the scene of first dates, marriage proposals, celebrity visits, and the occasional flash dance mob.

For Carter, the hook symbolizes what makes Starbucks special, and is the first thing she always likes to share with visitors who come to her store.

“We’ve talked about putting a plaque next to it, but we actually just the love it the way it is,” she said. 

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Workforce Diversity at Starbucks