I use to live in Portland, and when I did, I loved it. Everyone there is “creative,” the beards are long, the food is local, the cars run clean, and everything really does have a “bird on it.” Portland also has more X-rated businesses per capita than any other American city. It’s my kind of town.
But this post isn’t about Portland; it’s kind of about Seattle, or an Emerald City icon any way.
Generally I like to spend my PDX time in the Pearl District. That’s the neighborhood I use to live in, and it’s only a stone’s throw from several X-rated businesses, not to mention a few of my favorite bars, brunch joints, book stores, parks, movie theaters…while I was there I dropped by Starbucks for my usual: tall, soy latte.
While I waited for my latte, I sat down and had a look around. I noticed recently that it makes people uncomfortable if you’re straight up observing sans technology, crossword, etc., so I try to do it more often. A beer list quickly caught my eye. Interesting. The family sitting next to me was being served a cheese tray with a side of balsamic—the matriarch sipping a glass of red wine. Interesting.
Children eating tend to test my OCD tolerance, so I moved closer to the merchandise to get farther away from the kids. Whoa, is that a branded wine glass?
I live in Seattle now, and I’ve been to at least 10 different Starbucks in the last couple weeks, and none of them served wine, offered a side of balsamic, or had a beer list. No one messes with my Starbucks, not even Starbucks! If you want to class it up a bit with a private reserve roast and a black apron that’s fine. Heck, change-up the logo even. But dipping your toe into the waters of hipster dining? I might have to draw a line.
Is this just for fun, or is this a strategic brand extension? Starbucks has been around for a while; maybe they’re getting bored. Maybe they want to us to think “beverage” vs. “coffee.” Why limit yourself right? But let me tell you something, when you’re in a relationship with someone for a long time, and suddenly they take up something new that’s a bit off center, it feels like a mid-life crisis, not a rebirth. And it kinda hurts.
I’ve been in an intimate relationship with Starbucks for 15 years. I love it…perhaps enough to let it go.