Even with its massive walnut entry doors closed, the new Starbucks Reserve SODO store intrigues. At eye level, a brass-rimmed port-hole invites the visitor to take a peek, while a glowing Star R beckons in the distance.
On Tuesday, these doors will open for the first time, inviting visitors to take a journey of discovery with small-lot Starbucks Reserve™ coffees and Princi food. This location is the first of the company’s new Reserve store concept, introducing a marketplace-style environment to showcase its premium Starbucks Reserve brand.
The café, located on street level of Starbucks corporate headquarters in Seattle, was created to offer a mingling of public and private. A place where Starbucks partners and visitors can relax in a leather lounge chair near the fireplace, nosh on a piece of focaccia at the counter or enjoy the latest Reserve espresso and a flaky cornetti from Princi.
Christian Davies, vice president creative global design & innovation for Starbucks, wants visitors to feel like they are part of an experience from the moment they cross the threshold and pass through the entry doors. Every detail is deliberate, starting with the pattern on the hand-carved doors – concentric circles borrowed from the art for a Starbucks Reserve coffee card.
“When you walk into the space from the entry, you can take everything in in the sweep of an eye,” said Christian Davies. “We wanted people to walk through those doors and immediately find themselves in something different and unique, but they would still recognize as Starbucks.”
To the left, there’s a colorful art installation. Just beyond is the chef’s table and Princi case. Behind that, through framed art glass, is the Princi kitchen. Anchoring the center of the main café is a floor-to-ceiling fireplace, signaling a welcoming place to gather. Then look to the right and you’ll see a long wood-topped craft bar with Starbucks Reserve coffees and a mixology bar, finishing with the coffee library and doors to the patio.
In addition to the open layout, Davies added other subtle touches, such as flecks of amber-colored glass and mirror sprinkled into the concrete floor that help suggest a path through the store.
“When people come into a space they can navigate, you can see their shoulders relax. They instantly feel more comfortable,” Davies said.
The path begins at a stunning copper art installation that features nearly 3,700 Starbucks Reserve cards, designed in-house. From a distance, the card wall’s shape evokes the topography of the gentle mountains where coffee is grown. Each card can pivot, creating shimmering waves of color like fish scales. But step closer, and individual coffee cards come into view, each one a work of art in itself. Every now and again, a copper card is planted in the field of cards that tells a story about Starbucks Reserve.
“On one level, it’s simply a beautiful, gestural piece,” Davies said. “As you dive into the next level, and then the next, more comes out.”
Beyond the card wall is the first of three intimate meeting spaces, each creating its own moment of storytelling. The chef’s table room features the story of Rocco Princi, with shelves lined with mouthwatering ingredients from his pantry – cans of capers, artichokes and tomatoes and tall glass jars of preserved lemons. A favorite poem by Alda Merini, a friend of Princi, hangs in a place of honor. Gathered around the long wooden chef’s table, visitors can look through a glass wall into the Princi kitchen with artisan bakers and chefs at work.
And taking center stage is the Princi bakery and café, featuring the full Princi menu with artisanal baked breads, and breakfast anchored by signature cornetti and brioche. At lunch time, the menu offers soups, salads, focaccia and pizza. To the right is the mixology bar for later in the day with traditional Italian aperitivo, such as Aperol Spritz paired with small plates, as well as beer, wine and spirits.
The store represents the latest phase of innovation in the century-old building in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood, which has served as Starbucks headquarters since 1993. Back when it was a Sears Catalog distribution center, it employed cutting edge-technology for its time, with orders being picked by warehouse workers on roller skates and bicycles and delivered to the first floor via slides for quick shipping. The Reserve store continues that enterprising spirit, acting like a testing ground for the company, where it will debut new coffees, launch new products and host events. The store’s second meeting room, tucked back between the kitchen and the craft bar, is a tribute to this tradition. Starbucks R&D team will use this working lab to taste and test new beverages, starting with the cold coffee innovation.
“The lab celebrates our never-ending curiosity,” Davies said. “We can continue to push R&D around new beverages and ingredient combinations.”
The Reserve coffee bar is an eye-catching counterpoint to the Princi case. Here the craft of coffee is on display, with a full-lineup of brewing methods to explore, including siphon. Chemex, pour-over and Clover and a variety of Starbucks Reserve beverage creations to explore. The backdrop for this stunning display is a dark-stained walnut and leather back-bar, with hand-stitched copper wire adding sparkle and interest.
In the third meeting space, visitors can learn coffee’s story from bean to cup. The Starbucks Reserve coffee library can be hidden away behind a pivoting full-height wall of 1,200 bags of Starbucks Reserve Coffee. The space houses a collection of books on the geography, flora and fauna of Starbucks coffee-growing regions, and features a hand-painted Siren by Jordan Kay, the Starbucks artist behind this year’s holiday cup. An inside-outside fireplace brings warmth to those gathered in the room, and visitors enjoying the patio outside.
“When we were designing the space, we wanted to create layers of experiences and understanding – something new to discover,” said Kenna Giuzio, senior store concept designer for Starbucks. “I hope with each visit, our customers will come away with a new story of Starbucks.”