A Starbucks experiment that began ten years ago on Capitol Hill is set to come to an end. Roy Street Coffee and Tea will close this spring.
The global coffee giant hasn’t yet responded to CHS’s inquiry about the planned closure but customers of the Roy at Broadway cafe have been told the location will close at the end of April. UPDATE 2/19/19: Starbucks says they are leaving the location completely at the end of April:
As part of Starbucks standard course of business, we continually evaluate our business to ensure a healthy store portfolio. After careful consideration, we’ve made the difficult decision to close the store on Roy Street. Our last day at this location will be April 28, 2019. All Starbucks partners (employees) working at that store will have the opportunity to transfer to one of our locations in Seattle.
An effort is already underway to “save” the indie-style Starbucks cafe:
With news of the closing of Roy St Coffee & Tea,the creation of a warm and belonging atmosphere is undermined by the changing visions from Starbucks leadership. Acting with the courage and challenging the status quo begins to be questioned, as they shutter the doors of an establishment that has done just that. Finding new ways to find growth for the company [Starbucks] and each other is lessened.
We don’t yet know if Starbucks is planning to convert the location back into a standard cafe but the closure will fall at the ten year mark since Roy Street’s opening and could be related to a ten-year lease for the space in the 700 Broadway building, one of the neighborhood’s most controversial — and ugly, some said — new developments when the mixed-use development debuted in 2004.
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The experiment behind Roy Street could have created a very different Starbucks than we know today. The project debuted in 2009 as part of a pair of new Capitol Hill cafes that looked, felt, and in some ways operated like the independent cafes the new joints were designed to mimic. The 15th Ave Coffee and Tea part of the experiment didn’t last as long it was converted back to a standard Starbucks in 2011 and is today a Full Tilt ice cream shop.
But Roy Street carried on as a kind of special Starbucks cousin where you could use the coffee cards you got for Christmas from grandma and still get a craft coffee experience in one of the largest cafe settings in the neighborhood. Thanks to all that space, the cafe has been a favorite place for laptop jockeys and parking made it also popular with cops. It also seemed to be crawling with Starbucks folks either getting some work in or checking out some new innovation or trend. Starbucks “coffee ambassador” Major Cohen is a counter regular.
Starbucks design folks said many of the elements in the store were inspired by the Loveless Building across the street. The 3,600-square-foot space’s large windows have presented a lovely view of the Loveless and northern Broadway street life.
“Like other new stores we’ve opened recently – 1st and Pike and University Village in Seattle, Paris Disney and Conduit Street in London, this coffeehouse is a celebration of the community’s personality and values,” Starbucks PR said at the time. “Like all new Starbucks stores, whether they are Starbucks branded or the new concept stores, Roy Street Coffee & Tea uses regional materials, features the work of local artists and is designed for sustainability.”
But, like Paris Disney, things change. As the company’s former CEO Howard Schultz mounts a possible independent run for president, it looks like Starbucks is folding up its own experiment in indie independence. A larger initiative has grown from yet another Capitol Hill-born Starbucks experiment. In late 2014, the company opened its first Starbucks Reserve Roastery at the base of Capitol Hill. It has since built new “roastery” locations around the world and extended the brand into its global offerings as a new, upscale brand complete with $50 cups of coffee within the standard Starbucks experience.
In the end, it is probably a better direction. The indie-style experiment was criticized for its aping of neighborhood cafes like Victrola while the Melrose Roastery and its siblings are seen more as one of a kind coffee palaces. (Also, tip to Major Cohen: there’s fantastic coffee still available at Broadway and Roy at Joe Bar — oh, wait, you probably already know a little bit about it.)
But Roy Street employees and regulars probably don’t care much about the implications for the company and its all-time high stock price. For now, fans have a couple months to enjoy their favorite coffee hangout while the rest of us wonder what experiments the coffee giant will hatch on Capitol Hill next.