Starbucks plans to do all the roasting for its fanciest beans right on Capitol Hill, at a hybrid roastery/coffee shop expected to open in the fall.
All of the coffee marketed under Starbucks Reserve, the coffee giant’s new elite brand, will be roasted before the eyes of customers visiting the new coffee shop, under construction in the Pike Street building that formerly housed Utrecht Art Supplies and a Volvo dealership.
Starbucks chief creative officer Arthur Rubinfeld said the roastery, only the sixth worldwide for the company, will be entirely on view from the coffee bar.
The roastery will help buttress Seattle’s role at the center of specialty coffee innovation, as well as highlight the Reserve brand, he said.
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“The roastery is theater,” Rubinfeld said. It would allow people visiting Seattle from around the world to “close the loop” when they see Starbucks Reserve at their local store.
The building will also have Tom Douglas’ first Serious Pie restaurant on Capitol Hill, a 50-seat pizza eatery that will seek to incorporate coffee into the menu’s “most basic flavors,” Douglas said.
The Starbucks project “is going to break down coffee in a way that’s never been done before,” Douglas said in an interview. “You see the green go in and the dark come out. You see it coming out in your cup.”
The project highlights Starbucks’ bid to stay ahead in the increasingly competitive realm of high-end specialty coffee.
Rivals, from Portland-based Stumptown to Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee, have successfully carved themselves an ample niche among the choosiest U.S. coffee fans, and independent local outfits such as Milstead & Co. are also gaining prominence.
The development also allows Starbucks to flex its hefty design and architectural muscle, and display its love for spectacle in service of its emerging Reserve brand, which features single-origin coffee varieties produced in small batches.
The company’s Reserve coffee is sold either online or at some 500 stores around the world, although the company expects to offer it in more than 1,000 stores by the end of the year.
If the coffee shop/roastery succeeds, it could become a new stop in the Starbucks tourist circuit. Thousands of pilgrims flock to its historic Pike Place Market store.
Seattle, the site of Starbucks’ headquarters, has long been a playground for experimentation for the company. In the last decade it opened Roy Street Coffee & Tea, a cinema-inspired site next to the Harvard Exit movie house, where the Starbucks brand is understated.
Its 15th Avenue East coffee shop also operated initially as a “stealth” Starbucks, downplaying the brand. A drive-through store made out of shipping containers in Tukwila has been replicated in Denver, Chicago, Portland and other cities.
Asked if the coffee-shop/roastery crossbreed would be cloned in other places, Rubinfeld said, “We don’t know yet. Let’s see how that goes.”
Construction of the facility is moving through the permitting process. Rubinfeld said the planned configuration respects the character of the existing building, which dates from 1920. According to King County records, the building has about 16,000 square feet.
Rubinfeld said he doesn’t expect the roastery’s logistics to become a major nuisance in the up-and-coming neighborhood, site of hip restaurants such as Terra Plata and the Melrose Market. Coffee will be shipped in and out in step vans, he said.
Starbucks’ coffee-shop/roastery combo is not the first in the vicinity. Victrola Coffee Roasters, a Capitol Hill coffee institution, in 2007 opened a cafe and roastery on an adjacent block.
The new facility will yield 30 to 40 jobs once it opens, a Starbucks spokeswoman said.
Ángel González: 206-464-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @gonzalezseattle