With Roastery New York, Starbucks is Raising the Bar(ista) on Retail — Again



“I just love this store so much,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told investors at its annual shareholders meeting last month. Now his favorite store — the 15,000-square-foot Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room concept that opened in Seattle, Washington, in December 2014 to become the largest Starbucks location in the world — is getting some competition.

Starbucks Roastery Reserve Seattle New York

That’s because Starbucks plans to compete with itself by opening an even bigger location in (where else?) the Big Apple, with a 20,000-square-foot store near Chelsea Market in New York’s Meatpacking District. Its new glass home, as proposed above left, will comprise 170,000 square feet and rise nine stories. But it’s not only the size that will be impressive.

Located at 61 Ninth Avenue in New York’s lower west side, the evolution of its premium Roastery artisanal coffee shrine is slated to open in 2018. And it aims to be even more of a wow experience than the Seattle concept, which sets a high bar(ista) to follow.

Starbucks Roastery concept Seattle

Like Seattle, the New York interactive cafe will highlight coffee innovation and teach customers about coffee brewing with workshops and tastings of premium, small-lot coffees, while offering an expanded food menu and a roster of events.

But this is New York, where brand-as-theater matters and experiential marketing is raised to a whole new level. Look at the just-opened Samsung 837 flagship retail experience in the Meatpacking District that the Starbucks New York Roastery will compete with, or the Kola House brand experience/bar/restaurant that Pepsi is bringing to the neighborhood this spring.

As Schultz states, “In New York, we want to take elements from what we originally created and build something even bigger and bolder, celebrating coffee and craft in a completely unique and differentiated way. We want this experience to tell our customers that we’re coming to Broadway.”

The Seattle Roastery was “not the first foray into large-scale cafe design for Starbucks, nor is it the first time Starbucks has put manual espresso machines and pour-over bars into their cafes,” Sprudge’s reviewer noted. But I asked (senior concept designer) Andre Kim if there was any previous project that had particularly inspired or informed the company’s new Pike showcase, and he was quick to answer no. “This cafe is from scratch and inspired by Reserve… It is an amphitheater of coffee.”

TheStreet.com observes that the Roastery concept not only puts the passion for coffee back at the heart of the Starbucks brand, it’s also part of Starbucks’ larger plan to open upscale cafes, minus the roasteries, called Reserve, in over 500 locations globally over the next five years.

As the New York Post notes, there’s already a unique Starbucks Reserve cafe in New York, an arty location at 525 W. 26th St. in New York’s West Chelsea art gallery district, that aims to hold its own with “serious” coffee chains like Blue Bottle.

“There’s not one thing in there that tells you it’s Starbucks,” an insider told The Commercial Observer. “It’s the only store of its kind,” although the Starbucks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, also has a unique bent.

The new West Chelsea store, which occupies 3,000 square feet below grade and is reached via a stairwell from the ground floor, was designed with brick and beamed and unfinished ceilings. Artists were brought in to help with the design. The decor includes comfy couches.

Starbucks Seattle Roastery

More details on the New York Roastery development and experience from the press release:

An homage to coffee, this first-of-its-kind experience has immersed customers in the craft of roasting and brewing the finest small lot coffees from around the world.

A local sensation since opening its doors, the Roastery is coffee as theater, encouraging customers to interact with Starbucks roasters and baristas in order to deepen their understanding of the art behind sourcing, roasting and brewing rare coffees. With Starbucks’ unique, small batch process taking center stage, the Seattle Roastery has transformed specialty coffee and reframed what is possible to do within the four walls of a retail environment.


“Our Seattle Roastery experience created something that had never been done before, transforming a retail environment into something far beyond just a coffeeshop and into the single best retail experience of any kind,” said Howard Schultz, chairman and chief executive officer of Starbucks.

“In New York, we want to take elements from what we originally created and build something even bigger and bolder, celebrating coffee and craft in a completely unique and differentiated way. We want this experience to tell our customers that we’re coming to Broadway.”

The massive, 20,000-square-foot New York Roastery experience will build upon everything Starbucks has learned from integrating coffee roasting, manufacturing, education and retail, while ensuring an experience that is locally relevant to the market.

This project will be led by Arthur Rubinfeld, chief creative officer and president, Starbucks Global Innovation, and Liz Muller, vice president of Starbucks Creative and Global Design. Both executives will work closely with the joint venture of Vornado Realty Trust and Aurora Capital that is developing 61 Ninth. The development site, formerly Prince Lumber, was acquired by the joint venture in 2015.

The new building, designed by Rafael Viñoly, will be located one block south of Chelsea Market. Upon completion – which is expected by the end of 2017 – 61 Ninth Avenue will be approximately 170,000 square feet and rise nine stories.

Below, a closer look at the Seattle Reserve Roastery concept: