it's kinda like Epcot, but about coffee

So, you've heard of greenwashing... how about localwashing?

In a recent trend to buck big corporate chain retailers, large companies are working hard at rebranding themselves to a appear softer, gentler and more "local". They want you, as a maybe slightly educated consumer, to feel perfectly okay about going to them as if they were your backyard neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar. Whether it's Wal-Mart selling a "local" potato from Idaho or a NYC Whole Foods selling local coffee beans roasted a few miles away but actually grown in Ecuador, it's getting a little rampant. In a similar situation, Starbucks, the company responsible for coffee on the map across the US, has tried to not just soften their image... but to erase it in some cases.

Seattle, Washington.... home to Grey's Anatomy, rain, Pearl Jam and Starbucks has noticed that business in some of their stores located in more independent and alternative spots around town... has fell off to a trickle. It's not that people are not drinking coffee in these locations, they'd just rather go to the homegrown local coffee shop on the corner than go to the big green. In order to compete with the mom and pop joints, Starbucks has closed those stores and later reopened them under another name... such as 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea.

At 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea, there is no Starbucks logo to be found anywhere on the premises, not on the door, not on the bags, not on the coffee and not on the website. As well, the stores use a manual machine to make espresso rather than the automated type found in most Starbucks stores. 15th Avenue, which still carries Starbucks roasted coffee... was created to give a more rustic, organic, and home grown community feel.... much like your local coffee shop on the corner. Serving beer and wine alongside the coffee as well as offering poetry and open mic nights, Starbucks spent over a year sending coffee shop researchers to popular Seattle coffee joints for the purpose of "observation". In fact, several Seattle coffee shop owners who saw the researchers there day in and day out, feel a little cheated that Starbucks ripped off some of their atmosphere.

What I find most amusing about all of this is that I find that Starbucks is literally trying to cheat and fool the customer on their "coffee experience". And if that's not the intent.... I don't really understand the purpose for these stores, granted... placing "inspired by starbucks on the door" is a little transparent, but I just don't get it. While some people chose to go to Starbucks because the green apron is familiar and everywhere they go, there are even more people who chose not to go to Starbucks since they are everywhere you go. Are these are the people in which Starbucks is trying to cater to? I think, that if you want to support local businesses and you're smart enough to not go to Starbucks on a regular basis... then you'd be smart enough to not go to a place like 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea if they are in your neighborhood. And really, aside from tourists... who else is going to be duped by this? Is this for the customer who shamelessly likes Starbucks but feels bad about going, and really... they'd like to go to one of those little mom and pop places but finds the baritisa's with the tattoos and piercings slightly intimidating? Is this so they can feel better? Will they feel better as a result or will they just feel like they are cheating themselves? And if Starbucks is trying to appeal to tourists who don't know any better... is Capitol Hill in Seattle really the best place for that? Don't they make enough money off the people who go to Pike Place Market in order to go to the original Starbucks just to say they've been there? I mean, maybe something like this in Tulsa could work.... but in SEATTLE? I find that highly unlikely.

As my friend Heather pointed out... its kinda like going to visit Morocco at Disney's Epcot when really you're just in exotic Orlando, Florida.

Oh, and check out their awesome (cough) unpolished and unprofessional looking website and blog, cause you know... mom and pop coffee shops can't afford good design.

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-metblogs review of the place along with photos!

-When the 15th Ave store opened up, some kind protesters showed up outside the store in green aprons inviting people to the new, rebranded, neighborhood Starbucks. It's kinda funny.

-another review with some scathing commentary.

 

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