If you love coffee and have visited Starbucks more often than your very own Grandma, than you're probably keen on checking out the very first Starbucks, right? Yes, the very, very first one.
After all, this IS the Starbucks that started it all.
No doubt, this is also Seattle's Coffee Scene's favorite tourist trap and you can bet, as long as I have out-of-towners visiting, I'll be back.
Ah, Starbucks. People love em', hate 'em, and/or can't live without 'em. For the point of this blog, I have made the decision to not spend much time writing about the mega-corporate coffee places, such as Starbucks, Tully’s and others. The point being that Starbucks and other big companies usually benefit by creating systems for efficiency, which maximizes profits but often at the expense of individuality.
Seattle Coffee History in The Making
Visiting a Starbucks in Seattle wouldn’t usually be any different from visiting a Starbucks in New York, Milan, or (gulp) even India! So for me and the point of this blog, there’s just not much to write about. Yet there are always exceptions and this entry is one of them. Starbucks and others are just as much a part of the Seattle Coffee Scene as any other cafe in town.
To be sure, I don’t have anything against Starbucks. Personally, they continuously come through for me in a pinch. I cannot count how many Starbucks I desperately ran into simply to use their restroom on the road – grant it, I usually leave with an Americano.
All kidding aside, I have a tremendous respect for Mr. Schultz and the good folks over at Starbucks. They are top dog, and with that they will take their hits. Still, I am continuously impressed by their innovative spirit.
With all that said, let’s get back to Starbucks #1
After all, if you are in Seattle (lucky you), wouldn’t you want to see where it all started? I did and so do many others who come for a visit to the Emerald City!
Starbucks #1 is centered at the end of Pike’s Place, about 100 yards or so from the famous red neon Public Market Center sign. Usually, the cafe is packed with a line of humanity spilling down the sidewalk, enthusiastically snapping photos and listening to wonderful street musicians. FYI: If you're mentally prepared for the crowds, especially on nice sunny days, then you will be better off.
Even though there is no place to sit, no restroom and the place is more crowded than Seattle's #8 bus at rush hour, you still should get a drink here simply for the sake of saying “I’ve been to the first Starbucks!”
The first Starbucks in the world opened its doors in 1971 and today it has the same design and interior as almost 50 years ago. Yes, it’s cheesy and slightly silly, but it’s too exciting to pass up, even for the average unenthusiastic drinker, as this place has a huge significance not only in the coffee history in the States and beyond. After all, whatever city you're from in America (and beyond) you probably have been to a Starbucks. And even for those who happen to border on coffee snobbery, they'll be tempted to look just the same. So go ahead: have fun, be a tourist, snap a few pics and get your favorite Frappo-whateva!
Several years back I read Howard Schultz's book, Pour Your Heart Into It – and was impressed. After reading it, you better believe I wanted to see for myself the very place where Schultz plotted to take over the caffeinated world.
Perhaps, people – even Starbucks haters, are attracted to this very spot because deep down we realize that it was here that someone's dream – someone's vision – became true. Whether it be coffee or anything else, there is something deeply appealing about realizing your dreams – and this place marks the spot.
There have been several occasions where I have simply stood in line at Starbucks #1, imagining the young soon-to-be billionaire Schultz, with his dirty brown apron, stacking large bags of beans in this tiny coffee shop that the world would someday want to peek into.
I tip my hat off to Mr. Schultz and others who popularized the cafe in America. It's easy to criticize the big Elephant in the room when we are in Seattle surrounded by great cafes, but in many communities across America, Starbucks is all there is.
Spreading the Love to Starbucks' Barista
A quick shout out to the friendly staff at Starbucks #1 who are inundated with tourists everyday, which range from enthusiastic, to grumpy, to pushy – and they do it all with a genuine smile. I imagine each employee is in the background of hundreds, if not thousands of pictures across the globe. These baristas have always been friendly, courteous and very patient every time I have visited. It's not an easy job and they deserve every tip they get.
Though I love tourist traps, and certainly the Starbucks #1 is our favorite of them all here at the Seattle Coffee Scene. Sure there are long lines, no place to sit or use the restroom, chard coffee, and simply the feeling of “Get me outta here!” but we wouldn't have it any other way, would we?
For sure, I know I will be back with out-of-town friends in tow (see you there)!
Location: 1912 Pike Place
Neighborhood: Downtown, Pike's Place Market
Map details exact location of #1 Starbucks below: