Starbucks Chicago Roastery opens to capacity crowds

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery Chicago opened its doors to the public Friday, and quickly reached capacity as visitors moved up and down its five floors of coffee wonderland. At 35,000 square feet, the Roastery is now the largest Starbucks in the world.

CHICAGO – At the corner of Michigan and Erie on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a crowd stretched down the block before sunrise Friday morning. They braved freezing temperatures, bundled up in hats, coats and mittens, to be among the first to experience the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery Chicago.

Andy Shelton of Chicago was the first person through the door when it opened at 9 a.m.

“When I got the invitation, I immediately took the day off,” said Shelton, a Starbucks Rewards members who, once inside, made a beeline to order a coffee and avocado toast with salmon.  “I love the space. It’s very unique, and everyone is friendly, and this location – it is in the heart of where everyone wants to be.”

At five floors and 35,000 square feet, the Chicago Roastery is now the largest Starbucks in the world. But even with a capacity crowd of nearly 1,000 Friday morning, three customers quickly became the most recognizable in the building. Friends Alane Odom of Glen Carbon, Ill., Kristin Ward of Chicago and Rhonda Mitchell of St. Louis wore matching, two-foot-tall elf hats. This was Mitchell’s doing; she found them at Savers Thursday and thought they’d be festive to wear to the opening.

Mitchell and Odom have been friends for 20 years. The three of them have been friends for 10 years, ever since Odom reconnected with Ward, a grade school friend she’d lost track of. They found each other again through Facebook and within a month of reuniting had planned a trip to China together. They’ve been “inseparable” ever since.

“China is where we bought our first Starbucks mug. We just thought it would be fun to have something that said Beijing,” Ward said.

“It just, like, snowballed from there, and now, between us, we probably have at least a thousand [Starbucks] mugs,” Odom said. “We’ve been known to take trips just to get mugs.”

Their motto: “Every Starbucks mug has a story.”

Ward said their friendship is built around seeing the world, laughing and sharing memories over coffee – and collecting mugs.

“Some people think it’s silly, and that’s OK,” Ward said. “It brings us joy, and that’s what life is all about.”

Added Odem: “In the day-to-day chaos and ups and downs of life, Starbucks is our happy place.”

Here are some scenes from opening morning of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Chicago

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery Chicago opened its doors to the public Friday. Located at the corner or North Michigan Avenue and Erie Street on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, the Roastery is five floors and 35,000 square feet, making it the largest Starbucks in the world.

Shauna McKenzie-Lee, managing director of the Chicago Roastery, opens the doors to customers for the first time Friday morning.

Customers ride the curved escalator to the second floor of the Chicago Roastery. Encircling the 56-foot cask, where coffee beans go to rest and de-gas after the roasting process, the escalator is the first of its kind in the Midwest.

Customers, bundled up to fight the freezing temperatures, began lining up predawn to visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Chicago. By opening time, the line stretched down the block and around the corner. The Chicago Roastery joins locations in Seattle, Shanghai, Milan, New York and Tokyo.

Friends Alane Odom of Glen Carbon, Ill., Kristin Ward of Chicago and Rhonda Mitchell of St. Louis were some of the first customers into the Roastery. Odom and Ward, who collect Starbucks mugs, were walking around with large shopping bags full of Roastery merchandise. What did they buy? “What didn’t we buy!” Odom said, laughing.

Starbucks partners pose at the Chicago Roastery scoop bar in the relative calm shortly before doors open Friday. Coffee beans are roasted fresh and travel by pipe to locations around the Roastery where they are crafted into beverage or hand-scooped for customers who want to take home a bag.

Kevin Johnson, chief executive officer of Starbucks, crafted the first coffee beverage of the day for a customer after high fiving the cheering people streaming into the Chicago Roastery and visiting with the crowd waiting in line outside.

The Reserve coffee bar on the main level of the Roastery bustles with cappuccinos, lattes, cortados and a capacity crowd after doors opened Friday morning. Outside, a crowd of visitors from Chicago and out of town alike wait for a chance to explore the world’s largest Starbucks.

Chicago Roastery partner Ethan uses a siphon to brew coffee. The theatrical technique takes about 10 minutes from start to finish and uses vacuum filtration to push extremely hot water through a bed of freshly ground coffee.

Roz Brewer, chief operating officer and group president of Starbucks, greets customers in line waiting for the doors of the Chicago Roastery to open Friday morning.

Starbucks partners empty freshly roasted beans into a cart for transport at the Chicago Roastery. Small-batch lots of Starbucks Reserve coffees from around the world are roasted daily in the Probat L-25 roaster, which the roasting team has affectionately nicknamed “Charlotte.”

Eryn Sable, assistant general manager of the Seattle Roastery, passes out coffee to visitors waiting in line to get into the Chicago Roastery Friday morning.

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