By Any Other Name: Starbucks Goes Incognito

Last Updated Jul 20, 2009 11:29 AM EDT

Apparently Starbucks has decided to venture into a new business: that of the "little, neighborhood coffee shop." The company took a Seattle store slated for closure and instead decided to reopen the place as 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea, a coffee shop without any Starbucks logos or branding.
In the spirit of a traditional coffeehouse, it will serve wine and beer, host live music and poetry readings and sell espresso from a manual machine rather than the automated type found in most Starbucks stores.
Two additional "independent" coffee shops are planned for Seattle, each with their own neighborhood-specific name, and Starbucks says it may try this strategy in other markets in the future.

To prepare, Starbucks sent people to actual independent coffee shops for research. The owner of Victrola Coffee Roasters told the Seattle Times, "They spent the last 12 months in our store up on 15th [Avenue] with these obnoxious folders that said, 'Observation.'"

The whole thing is so ludicrous I keep having to double check to make sure this is from a real newspaper and not from the Onion. The post title at BrandFreak reads even more like a parody headline: "Starbucks all but admits its brand name has become a liability."

As journalist Marc Gunther wrote, what's next? "A little neighborhood burger place run by McDonald's? A little neighborhood hardware store owned by Home Depot? A little neighborhood five-and-dime operated by Wal-Mart?"

The Victrola Coffee Roasters guy said he wanted to challenge the nouveau Starbucks people to a "Victrola Barista Smackdown." If that actually happens, I hope someone will let me know

  • Katherine Glover