At Capitol Hill’s Starbucks Roastery, exit Tom Douglas, enter company’s Italian bakery investment Princi

Love it or hate it, the Starbucks Roastery at the base of Capitol Hill has been a “runaway success,” driving the growth of the giant’s efforts in the “premiumization” of its coffee “experience.” But the Melrose and Pike project will move on from a major local partner this spring, CHS has learned.

The Seattle-headquartered company is planning to replace Tom Douglas’s midscale pizza Serious Pie restaurant with another component of Starbuck’s premium set of brands:

The runaway success of the Roastery has led to the ongoing commitment in our premium Reserve brand including building more than 20 Roasteries worldwide in addition to a new Reserve store concept.  As a result, we also have the opportunity to evolve our food menu. With the recent investment in the Italian bakery, Princi, we will introduce artisanal, fresh baking from Milan to customers around the world through Siren Retail. This will now include the Seattle Roastery and in doing so, we will be able to learn firsthand how we can elevate this new food experience within the entire premium business model.  It is a one of a kind opportunity and Tom agrees.  As a result, he has graciously agreed to move Serious Pie out of the Roastery and is working closely with us on the transition.

The news shouldn’t be a surprise to coffee industry insiders and Seattle mega-restaurateur Douglas. In December, Howard Schultz announced plans for the Italian artisan bakery corporation Princi to begin providing pizza and baked goods at roastery locations after Starbucks invested in the Milan-based company. It now appears that the Seattle roastery will be home to the first “standalone” Princi bakery in the United States.

According to the letter sent to employees by Cliff Burrows, president of Siren Retail, the group responsible for Starbucks Roastery, Reserve, Teavana and Princi operations, Serious Pie is scheduled to remain open through May 1st “with Princi moving into the space shortly thereafter.” We’re going to assume, given May Days past at the Melsrose roastery, Serious Pie might call it quits a little early.

In his letter, Burrows thanked Douglas for his help “designing and delivering a new retail format.”

CHS first broke the news on the involvement of Douglas in the roastery project in early 2014. The first ever Starbucks Roastery and its adjoined Serious Pie opened in December 2014 and immediately set a new bar for its over the top “ultimate expression of Starbucks.” Douglas told CHS in 2015 that Serious Pie was as far up Capitol Hill as he ever planned to climb. “I don’t have any irons in the fire. I’m a downtown guy,” Douglas said at the time. In the meantime, the prolific restaurateur opened the Carlile Room across from the Paramount and has managed to throw and elbow or two at the city’s $15 minimum wage ordinance and, apparently, the general difficulty of doing business in Seattle. “I just feel like this particular mayor and this particular city council looks at business in a negative light rather than the traditional positive light and, maybe, that’s an ebb and flow of how things get done,” Douglas told KIRO radio late last year. “I find it, as a business person, unfortunate.”

The exit of Serious Pie follows the great Capitol Hill pizza boom of 2016 as five new pizza joints joined the neighborhood.

Princi, meanwhile, could face competition in the pizza and Italian bakery category in lower Pike/Pine. Permits indicating a project to create a joint venture between Pagliacci and Macrina Bakery on E Pike is still moving forward.

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