This isn’t the original Starbucks near the famous Pike Place Market. No, this Starbucks is the Reserve Roastery, and the soulful experience that store manager James Gibson and his team provide makes this cafe/bar/pastry shop/retail store/smile-inducer/full-on-awesome-experience a must-visit destination for everyone visiting Seattle.
This isn’t your typical Starbucks, where after school the kids come and go, slurping Venti Frappuccinos. (Forgive me. I’m in a T.S. Eliot mood today.) Visiting the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Seattle, Washington last month, I was treated to what was undeniably The Soulful Experience.
The grand double-door entrance at 1124 Pike Street in Capitol Hill (not to be confused with the original Starbucks coffee shop at Pike Place) welcomes coffee lovers from around the world. Even non-coffee lovers will enjoy an hour here, where you’ll be treated to an experience that is not only educational but a whole lot of fun. (One Yelper called it “Disneyland for coffee fans.” I totally agree.) Locals and tourists alike would be wise to spend time learning from the ambassadors here who are product knowledge experts for one of the most famous brands in the world.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a tad overwhelming at first. The eyes don’t know where to focus, for there isn’t a line of business people, students and moms in yoga pants anxiously checking their iPhones in a very confined space. I took a deep breath and then noticed a kind person with a smiling face and a leather apron, welcoming me to the Roastery. She offered to show me the menus (one for coffee and espresso, the other for cocktails!?!) and then asked if I’d like to take a tour. Over to my right was the resident bean expert, inspecting the gigantic copper machines and bags of raw coffee beans being rolled in, ready for roasting. He broke away from the tall stack of coffee bean bags and then spent ten minutes teaching us about organic beans, explained how Starbucks works direct with growers, and naturally, was passionate about the roasting process.
Howard Schultz wanted to give customers an immersive experience, and boy did he ever, as you’ll see in the photos at Starbucks Reserve Roastery below:
The tour of Starbucks Reserve Roastery winds around a spotless processing facility, which must be like heaven for coffee junkies. It then takes you down a flight of stairs to two coffee tasting areas, and a quaint library tucked away in the back. The feeling was that of a hip boutique hotel lobby in a historic building, and I explored the nooks and crannies before placing an order.
Princi Bakery and Cafe beckoned with the scent of fresh croissants, pizza and sandwiches. (There is an entire wall with Italian ovens baking made-to-order pizza. This is Starbucks?)
I noticed giddy adults drinking what appeared to be beer, wine and other libations, and it turned out there were two mixologists crafting coffee-infused cocktails. The vibe was very cool but not hipster or exclusive. It conveyed a local gathering spot where strangers could become friends at the community tables and bar tops. Hipsters were there, sure, but so was a mom with her kids, a few female business executives enjoying a post-meeting drink, college students, and tourists like me. Truly a comfortable gathering place for everyone.
If you know me, you know I’m a retailer and marketer at my core, and I was delighted by the store within this magnificent Starbucks. Retail is taken to a new level at the Reserve, with displays that resemble a museum shop and items at all price points just waiting to be discovered. There was even an electric bike for sale!
I’m just kicking myself now because I didn’t splurge on one of the handmade leather aprons that were the uniforms donned by the staff…
Ready to take your brand from so-so to soulful? Order Diane Ferraro’s new book titled “The Soulful Experience” and learn how Starbucks and other big brands develop mission statements, strategies, culture and marketing calendars.