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What they’re saying about Capitol Hill’s Starbucks Roastery: $20M price tag, chi-chi Hill, ‘a gathering spot for the well-to-do’


The Starbucks PR for the new roastery played up the whole Willy Wonka thing — pretty much everybody bit (Image: CHS)

Last week, CHS showed you inside the massive new Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in a transformed auto-row era showroom at Pike and Melrose. The rest of the world had some things to say, too. Below is a selection of news, notes, and observations about the project from reporters around the country and the world. We’ve highlighted some of the more interesting bits. Let us know if there are any other reports worth noting that we missed.

Shows what construction permit budget totals will get you. The Starbucks permit was filed with a $2.3 million construction budget: The new Starbucks Roastery is rumored to have cost more than $20 million. Part retail store, part manufacturing facility and part theater, the store intentionally evokes the chocolate room where Augustus Gloop met his fate in Willy Wonka’s candy factory.New York Times

Apparently, it fits right in: Early Friday, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room mega-store opens its specially carved teak doors in Seattle’s chi-chi Capitol Hill. Part store, part theater and part made-for-social-media buzz, it’s also a savvy tourist attraction. The store is big not just in size, but aspirations. — KING 5

So, what’s it all about? The most noticeable aspect of the place is how customers can see exactly how their cup of joe is made, from the minute it comes off the truck as green coffee beans to the moment a barista pours the liquid into a mug. There’s even a window in the bathrooms — which feature individual stalls with doors and a dedicated attendant — that lets you peer into the roasting facility.Geekwire

And… The roasting half of the operation feels like a museum exhibit, with a low glass barrier behind which the staff operates the heavy machinery and explains their methods to curious customers.Thrillist

And… On any vineyard tour, you can see where the grapes are mashed and bottles are corked, and then finish with a drink. Now coffee fiends can sample the same joy built around their favourite beverage.The Guardian

Well, that sounds nice. But??? The Roastery will serve as the launchpad for a planned chain of 100 stores specializing in high-end coffees from around the globe, with initial locations opening in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.Chain Store Age

But??? While the cheapest cup of coffee is $3, the most expensive cup — which features none of Starbucks’ typical accoutrements like whipped cream and syrup drizzles — will set customers back $8. For three 12-ounce coffee samples at the “Coffee Experience Bar,” expect to shell out $15. — Eater

So, what’s it really about?
The 15,000-square-foot space will allow Starbucks to double its capacity for roasting the small-batch coffees.Puget Sound Business Journal

Starbucks politely declined to share a final price tag for the Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, but with at least a million dollars sunk into equipment alone by our calculation, clearly no expense was spared. It might be the most ambitious and exciting cafe concept to open in North America in 2014.Sprudge

“I think the roastery is a metaphor for the whole company,” Schultz told the 150 or so investors who gathered in Seattle for a biennial meeting with top management.Seattle Times

Which means what, exactly? Think of the Starbucks Roastery as a gathering spot for the well-to-do, where industrial age aesthetic meets information age reality.USA Today

OK. Now we get it. Anything we missed? Let us know in comments.

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42 thoughts on “What they’re saying about Capitol Hill’s Starbucks Roastery: $20M price tag, chi-chi Hill, ‘a gathering spot for the well-to-do’

  1. Chi chi Capitol Hill… Ha ha, yeah, nothing makes me feel like a member of the 1% like firecrackers outside my window at 2 am and kicking hypodermic needles off my front steps every morning. It’s my little corner of upper class paradise.

  2. Real coffee “fiends” know that you can get an amazing cup of coffee for $3 up the street. The well to do can keep stroking themselve; they don’t know the difference between good coffee and burnt coffee.

    • I’m sure there are some “real coffee fiends” who’d have my head for the things I have to say about Victrola’s beans. I’ll be giving this place a shot, if only because I haven’t heard any cries of “buuuuurrrnnt!” about Roy Street.

      • Personally, I think Victrola is nasty. I’ve tried both the 15th Ave and Pike locations and both times found it undrinkable. Not sure if it’s the coffee or the baristas, but twice was enough for me.

    • If by up the street you mean Victrolla, then no thank you. The last time I went there the cashier was grabbing ceramic cups by the rims and servicing coffee in them after she had been handling cash. Oh and she was chewing her fingernails! Touching food and utensils. Never washed her hands.

      I think the new Starbucks is gorgeous and helps stake out a little more of the Pike/Pine area for more grown up activities instead of the sidewalk puking frat house that the east end of the corridor has become. It’s a great compliment to the Melrose Market area.

      The same people that are complaining would have complained no matter what was put in there. God forbid anyone had torn the building down!

    • Starbucks serves a crazy number of roasts and blends. If you have any coffee knowledge, you can appreciate both Victrola and Starbucks for the things they each excel in. While we share OPINIONS, no matter how base and tired (and derived entirely from google or decades-old news) some may be, I’ll add mine into the mix.

      I have tried many coffees from nearly all of our much-beloved indies. I am not a fan of thin, light-to-medium roast, sour-bomb or cereal grain brews (often still with cherry paper on the bean – sloppy processing? – adding to that sour cereal), and so I actually prefer the darker, thick-but-crisp herbal, spicy flavor of a starbucks dark with no cream or sugar. Their Pantheon blend is really nice on perc, and I tried the Nicaragua on pour over at the Roastery. Completely sold on that one. Add an awesome environment and some great staff (if you can catch them without a line out the door), its really someplace you NEED to try even if you hate starbucks.

      If you just can’t like the coffee, then try the bar at Serious Pie and tell me all about the premium complexity of your Rainier tallboy.

      • Uhh
        Serious Pie dont serve Rainier Tall Boys.. take a look at their beer selection and you will be sad if thats what you are looking for. They serve great beers from great local North West breweries.

  3. Is this article about how the Sonics are going to be moved back to town by Howard Schultz to erase his transgressions with the city? no? Okay, Then Fuck Howard Schultz!!

  4. So many haters! Would you rather live in desolate Detroit? Howard Schultz has been the only corporate leader in this ENTIRE country to insist on HEALTH INSURANCE for part-time employees since way, way back when. Hello single mothers and students! This building like so many other could of had a date with the recking ball or another uninspired cookie-cutter re-model like so many former auto-row buildings on Capitol Hill which by the way is NOT Chi Chi. BTW King 5 it’s more of a restaurant destination–you should know better by now? I feel for boozecruise, their post is about what is really going on in our hood! The real problem in our community is the out of control rents and the increase in hate crimes on our streets–not Starbucks. The fact that Starbucks appears to have round the clock security makes me feel safer at that intersection anyway. Too bad our own police department was not more prevalent. I think the mis-directed venum against a beautiful showplace for us all to enjoy has more to do with greedy HOUSING developers and the onslaught of endless Amazombies. Moving in and taking over an artist community along with their homophobic friends that come to Capitol Hill to party and terrorize individuals while they are in a drunken group–cowards! I for one will not be buying the $15 cup of coffee but one I can happily afford. Let’s put our energies in the right direction for a safer, rent-controlled neighborhood.

  5. I’ll be getting *my* coffee at the Victrola up the street, but I have nothing but good things to say about this Starbucks. They SAVED a building that could have turned in to the next Melrose Building disaster.

    Perhaps a bit heavy handed in the “artisinal-ness” and reclaimed barnwood, but if that’s all I can complain about that’s pretty good. Love the neon sign that echoes the original Packard auto row sign.

    • I agree with this. I don’t care for Starbucks coffee at all (or Victrola’s – Vivace and Fuel for me, thanks) but I appreciate that the corporation has been consistently ranked among the best places to work, and their policies have always been very forward thinking. Not always successful in execution, but from a policy standpoint they’ve been great. And even though I can’t help but roll my eyes at the VIP rope and the security guard I saw as my bus went by this location last night, I am glad that this historic building was put to good use instead of being torn down or having its facade used to give a developer a huge break for another gigantic, fugly, incongruous box.

  6. While our family usually chooses to spend our $s at independent cafes, we do recognize that Starbucks has been a good citizen in Seattle as an employer and as a donor to many neighborhood schools and parks.

    NOW ABOUT THE ROASTER… it is making the whole neighborhood smell like coffee and the lighting is SPECTACULAR. and for me, those are good things.

  7. While this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, er, coffee, its definitely a better option and will serve more people on the hill than the Volvo dealer was or did. The same will most likely be true for what replaces Phil Smart and BMW Seattle. While I’m a “car guy” I’m glad that auto row has moved and we have (and will get) more places to enjoy ourself rather than large expanses (or voids) where the average joe has to just walk past showrooms of cars. This is one of many great opportunities for the Pike/Pine corridor.

    Starbucks has done remarkable work in this space. That is something we should all be excited about.

    • If only we could get someone with deep pockets to save the HARVARD EXIT? Hmmm…Hey Howard please remodel it into an amazing state of the art theater and/or performance space, keeping it’s name) like Paul Allen has done. He is not a film maker either. Just think it will only sell Starbucks coffee and in fact I’m sure you could make a cozy café space in there somewhere? In keeping with the vibe of the history of this amazing space. Pretty please!

    • And someone has to pay the taxes to support your precious, insular lifestyle on the Hill and make the world safe for your dimwitted generalizations. Oh wait, that would be us Amazombies/Microsoftie zombies. You’re welcome! :-)

    • Cities thrive and grow because of change. New restaurants, bars and stores are opening up here because of the influx of local jobs that pay great. No one is forcing you to stay on the hill. You can always move to Portland.

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  9. Coffee like food is a matter of personal tastes of course. I am a long time favorite not only Victrola coffee but of their baristas.. What erks me is that Starbucks basically took what Victrola is already doing and opened shop right next to them with the same concept that’s been there as Victrola for a long time by a local small company but Starbucks claims it as its own authentic concept with all its millions.. It’s very easy to capitalize on a concept especially when someone else has already sacrificed and risked to manifest it prior to you. Plus Starbucks is not really interested in the product otherwise they could have done this eons ago. What they are truly interestd is in exploiting the brand for market share…

      • God, you took the words right out of my mouth. Makes this little gem of an excerpt pretty ironic:

        “it’s very easy to capitalize on a concept especially when someone else has already sacrificed and risked to manifest it prior to you.” (Like Starbucks did since 1971).

  10. Starbucks version of slow coffee is just plain slow. Long line to order, wait+ for order, but only get pastry, then another 15 minute wait for coffee because their brand new Clover machines didn’t work. Okay, not supposed to be a slam-bam-thankyou coffee place, but will anybody stop by in the morning rush to work?

    • Clearly this is not the sort of place they expect people will stop by on the way to work. Nor are they likely interested in that crowd for this kind of showcase.

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