Thirty-three years ago, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was inspired to create the Starbucks coffee house by his experience at espresso houses in Milan. Now, the company is coming full circle with plans to open its first Starbucks in Italy by early 2017—in Milan.
In a company blog post, Schultz shared how in 1983, as marketing director for Starbucks, which only sold whole-bean coffee from a handful of stores in Seattle at the time, he attended a trade show in Milan, and the company would never be the same. After marveling at the romance and artistry of the baristas, the coffee and the overall experiences in Milan espresso outlets, he returned with a determination to have Starbucks attempt the same sort of thing in the US.
It took a few years but Schultz finally was able to turn Starbucks in that direction when he bought out Starbucks from other cofounders in 1987 for $3.8 million. He changed the name of an Italian-inspired coffee chain he had started from Il Giornale, the name of a Milan newspaper, to Starbucks—and the rest is business, cultural and gastronomic history.
“The dream of the company always has been to sometime complete the circle and open in Italy,” Schultz explained, “but we haven’t been ready.” He now feels “intuitively” that the time is right.
So Starbucks is partnering with Percassi, which will own and operate Starbucks stores in Italy beginning with the first Milan outlet. The company’s retail stores will be developed in cities across the country by Percassi, which Starbucks called “a renowned Italian company with a proven track record of operating highly successful major brand partnerships across Italy.”
“Starbucks history is directly linked to the way the Italians created and executed the perfect shot of espresso,” Schultz said. Now, through its first outlet in Italy, he added, “We’re going to try, with great humility and respect, to share what we’ve been doing and what we’ve learned.”