Through its latest venture … Starbucks is experimenting with a completely different approach to java. A swift departure from Starbucks’ sparse, no-nonsense ambiance, this 3,100-square-foot coffeehouse is graced with antique furnishings, red velvet curtains and well-worn couches. More than just a place to grab a cup of joe, … also boasts complete breakfast, lunch and dinner menus; a full liquor bar; live music; Internet access from many tables and a private meeting place called the Green Room. This cross between a neighborhood coffeehouse, a restaurant and a bar caters to a hip, urban crowd, many of whom have shunned Starbucks in the past. It’s also a place where customers can sink into a comfy couch, sip a mocha or martini, and stay awhile.
The above was written for Entrepreneur Magazine 10 years ago. June 1999.
Via CurbedSF, comes this reminder that history repeats. Starbucks launched the Circadia Coffee House brand in San Francisco at the turn of the millennium. The concept morphed into the Starbucks Cafes that also soon were either shut down or converted into regular Starbucks outlets. So, is what we’re seeing down the street at 15th Ave Coffee & Tea the same thing all over again?
Victrola Coffee owner Dan Ollis thinks so.
“You don’t know what is going to be going behind the butcher paper,” Ollis said of his initial apprehension about the new Starbucks venture moving into Victrola’s neighborhood. “We’re doing fine. It’s a beautiful store. They’ve clearly spent a lot of money and we’re flattered to have been immitated,” Ollis said.
“Victrola has customers that are so loyal that they feel like protective parents so they’ve gone over to check the new place out. But they come back to report what they saw. It’s great.”
Ollis said that during the first week, he and the Victrola staff got caught up in the hype around 15th Ave Coffee & Tea but now they’re getting back to concentrating on Victrola. “I’m still waiting for Howard to call, though,” said Ollis, who parlayed his Whidbey Island Coffee company into his own PNW mini-empire when he purchased Victrola in February 2008. In the meantime, Ollis said he has no need and no plans to change what Victrola does.
The same can’t be said about the rest of his caffeine empire. Ollis said a little bit of Capitol Hill has been spreading out across his other stores. “We are now teaching latte art to all the Whidbey staff,” Ollis said. “But I don’t know how much of the crossover is going to happen. Each area has its own quirks.”