By fall, the entire line of Starbucks premium reserve coffees will be roasted right here on Capitol Hill when the $57.4 billion global coffee giant opens up a new roastery and restaurant complex.
Last month, CHS broke the news that Starbucks was bringing in a Seattle restaurant heavy hitter to help create its planned news Capitol Hill complex at Melrose and Pike.
The rotating line of 15 reserve coffees are currently available in 500 retail locations across 10 international markets. By the end of 2014 Starbucks officials say then want to double the number of locations with the dedicated Capitol Hill facility. The reserve line, currently roasted in Kent, will be familiar to customers at Roy St. Coffee and Tea where coffees like Sumatra Blue Batak and Sun-Dried Ethiopia Yirgacheffe are displayed behind the counter.
Friday, CHS sat down with Starbucks chief creative officer Arthur Rubinfeld at Roy St., the company’s first “inspired”venture on Capitol Hill, to talk about the new roastery. Joining him was restauranteur Tom Douglas, who will open his third Serious Pie pizzeria inside the complex, marking his company’s Capitol Hill debut. Both were ready to fill in the details on the big story CHS has been piecing together since last year.
“It just feels right,” Rubinfeld said of joining forces with Douglas.
The duo promised to deliver a wholly unique coffee experience in the city, where customers can gain a deeper understanding of coffee through exposure to the small batch roasting operation.
Rubinfeld said there was no way of telling how much coffee would get roasted at the new facility as the reserve coffees rotate frequently and are sourced from small growers. The 15,000 square-foot Capitol Hill roastery will be the company’s fifth roasting facility in the U.S, although quite a bit smaller than its massive plant in Kent. There is no word, yet, on the number of new jobs it will create on the Hill. Rubinfeld said vans, not semi-trucks, will be used to move coffee in and out of the neighborhood. A Puget Sound Clean Air Agency review of the project must first approve the new facility. You can thank Capitol Hill’s history of auto row businesses and light industry for zoning friendly to creating a small production facility like this one.
In selecting Capitol Hill for its new roasting complex, Starbucks joins a Pike street and neighborhood already busy with coffee bean preparation. Last year, CHS talked to Victrola about its roasting operations and the addition of a Starbucks facility just down the block.
The 1920-built building played a significant role in Capitol Hill’s auto row history as a home to a series of dealerships through the decades.
As for Serious Pie, Douglas said he expects the menu to be slightly different than the two other locations, but to keep a similar aesthetic. The pizza restaurant and coffee roastery is expected to a be a popular destination for visitors attending evens at the Convention Center nearby.
Douglas’s arrival on Capitol Hill comes relatively late in the game for one of the captains of the Seattle restaurant industry. He already has more than a dozen locations in motion around the city but, despite its food and drink business boom economy, Serious Pie Melrose will be the chef’s first project on the Hill. As an employer of hundreds in the city’s food industry, Douglas has been an outspoken critic of the push for an all-out $15 minimum wage in Seattle:
In my opinion, $15NOW with no acknowledgement of total compensation is a hollow slogan meant for headlines and shout downs rather than thoughtful, meaningful conversation, and equitable solutions. It makes no sense for Seattle to have a carved out exemption when the IRS and the State of Washington both concur that tips are earned income. That is what needs to be said.
Both Douglas and Starbucks have signed long term leases with the building owners. While Starbucks and Tom Douglas don’t have any other partnerships in the works, Rubinfeld left open the possibility of future collaborations.
Beyond Serious Pie, Rubinfeld said there were no plans to add any additional businesses into the new venture and mimic Capitol Hill’s growing trend of indoor markets. However, Douglas said Serious Pie will be a separate, though artfully incorporated, entity within the space.
In September CHS first wrote about Starbucks’ plans for the former art supply story and Volvo dealership. Aside from some repairs, Rubinfeld said Starbucks is planning on preserving the building inside and out.
The Starbucks building permit application indicates that work is ready to start in earnest at the site that neighbors the popular Melrose Market and will soon have this eight-story preservation and development project under construction rising above the longtime home of the original Bauhaus cafe. The base budget listed for the construction project is $775,000.