The largest Starbucks in the world, which opened at 7 a.m. this morning in a converted 1910 Packard automobile dealership building in Seattle's Capitol Hill district, is a "little bit Willy Wonka," according to Liz Muller, the brand's director of concept design. The 15,000-square-foot flagship has two coffee bars, a restaurant, a shop, and a two-story library stocked with over 200 volumes, but it's the factory on display, which will produce the company's new "small batch" Reserve line, that seems to be the real focus here.
"Beans whir in pipes overhead," describes Co.Design's Mark Wilson, "trickling like the sound of rain into elegant glass vats," while lights over the manufacturing area are kept brighter than those in the rest of the earth-toned space, creating a "natural stage effect to emphasize the theater." Like a snot-nosed kid about to be taught a lesson in manners by being turned into a giant blueberry or vacuumed into a chocolate-sucking tube, the customer is meant to learn something from this rather surreal space: Stumptown, Dillanos, and Blue Bottle got nothing on us.
"It's not a show," continues Muller, the 52-year-old Dutch designer behind specifically tailored international locations that read like a Green Eggs and Ham of contemporary branded design: in a bank vault, on a train, in a shipping container, in a... Disneyland. "It's a true manufacturing plant. We [generally] like showing a little leg under the skirt. But this was like lifting the skirt and saying let's see it all."
Makes you feel kind of dirty!