Our first store outside of North America opened on a humid August day in 1996 in the upscale Ginza district of Tokyo. Howard Behar, then president of Starbucks International, was nervous. Although the interest was there – coffee consumption in Japan had been steadily increasing since 1980 – there were already lots of coffee shops in Tokyo; we knew we would face fierce competition.
But opening day began with a reassuring sign: Howard Schultz arrived to find 100 people in line for the 6:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting. The first customer, an excited young man in his twenties, rushed to the counter and uttered the only English words he knew: “Double short latte!”