It’s hard to believe that when our original store opened in 1971, it sold only bulk coffee, tea and spices. That changed after Howard Schultz, who was then our director of operations and marketing, traveled to Milan for a tradeshow in 1983. Wandering the city, he discovered that its many espresso bars did more than just serve coffee. The baristas were artists, respected for their craft. And the bars themselves served as a “third place” for customers – welcoming, energetic gathering spaces between home and work that became part of people’s daily routine.
Howard returned inspired, eager to bring the warmth and artistry of Milan's coffee culture to Seattle, and on a drizzly April morning in 1984, he got his chance. In a small corner of a new downtown store, two baristas poured espresso drinks, including the first ever Starbucks® Caffè Latte. Word spread. Lines began to snake out the door. But it would take time – and a bold move – for us to fully embrace the coffeehouse concept.