Starbucks is testing a new store concept that sounds like a radical departure from the latte version you visit here in the United States.
Located in the former vault of a historic bank on Rembrandtplein, the new shop will be a showcase for sustainable interior design and slow coffee brewing, with small-batch reserve coffees and Europe’s first-ever Clover, a high-end machine that brews one cup at a time. But the most radical departure is in the aesthetic: the multilevel space is awash in recycled and local materials; walls are lined with antique Delft tiles, bicycle inner tubes, and wooden gingerbread molds; repurposed Dutch oak was used to make benches, tables, and the undulating ceiling relief consisting of 1,876 pieces of individually sawn blocks. The Dutch-born Liz Muller, Starbucks concept design director, commissioned more than 35 artists and craftsmen to add their quirky touches to the 4,500-square-foot space.
Although Starbucks is extremely popular in the US, it doesn’t fare nearly as well internationally. It could be the quality of the coffee, or the distinctly American fast-food vibe that Starbucks now has, or both. When I was in Tel Aviv last month, I chatted with a barista at Cafe Aroma, a popular coffee shop chain in Israel, about “how us Americans can drink that shit called Starbucks.” She told me that Starbucks opened a shop in Tel Aviv a while back, but it closed within a few months because it wasn’t making any money. Israelis didn’t seem to like the taste of the coffee, or the vibe of the shop itself.
Trendy, mom-and-pop coffee shops are becoming increasingly more popular in the US, and thus more people are going into the coffee business. Even Danville has its own cutesy coffee shop—our beloved Sideboard Cafe, which brews Blue Bottle Coffee (which is amazeballs, in short).
Anyways, Starbucks is correct in thinking that they need to re-brand themselves if they want to maintain appeal. Amsterdam is a great place to start. Give it a year or two, and I bet we’ll see a Starbucks storefront in San Francisco, Portland, Austin, or Brooklyn, that looks similar to the one above.