Five Washington State Patrol officers exclaimed their dismay when they learned Thursday that the Starbucks where they gather a few times...

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Five Washington State Patrol officers exclaimed their dismay when they learned Thursday that the Starbucks where they gather a few times each week is slated to close.

“This is our favorite one,” said Christina Palmer.

“All the others are too busy,” said Cliff Roberts.

“It just opened,” lamented Chris Clark.

Indeed, the Starbucks at Southcenter Square opened in November. Employees don’t yet have a closing date, but they know it is on the list of 600 stores to be shut nationwide as part of Starbucks’ turnaround strategy.

The company’s U.S. sales have suffered and profits are expected to fall this year, largely due to the sluggish economy.

All 600 stores — about 5 percent of Starbucks’ U.S. footprint — are expected to close by March, and Starbucks could release a list of the first 50 closures as early as next week.

Chief Executive Howard Schultz told workers in a memo this week that subsequent closures would be made public each month after employees receive 30-day closure notices.

Schultz says Starbucks wants to tell employees in person. Company insiders say Starbucks is not releasing the full list because it is still working to modify and cancel some real-estate contracts.

Meanwhile, employees are telling people about closures unofficially.

State Sen. Claudia Kauffman, D-Kent, already heard about the planned closure of her regular Starbucks, a tiny coffee shop tucked behind the garden center of a Top Food & Drug store in Kent.

“It is really sad, because I thought this was one of the stores doing quite well, given all the people who come and go,” Kauffman said.

Company officials have said many of the targeted stores are near other Starbucks. The Tukwila store is within a mile of four other Starbucks, and the Kent store is just blocks from another Starbucks.

Employees at the Kent and Tukwila stores confirmed their shops are expected to close. One said she knows customers who are contacting Starbucks’ headquarters to protest the closure of a favorite store.

Brad Stevens, vice president of customer-relations management, said customers could make a difference but added he has not heard much reaction from them.

“That’s such an amazing thing, that customers would actually take up that cause,” he said. “How lucky we are that we as a brand have that kind of relationship with customers. I think we would listen carefully.”

Sam Phillips, of Charlotte, N.C., found the Tukwila store with a handheld locator he uses when traveling. He’s concerned that the closures will make Starbucks locations less convenient.

“I’ve been wondering which stores were going to close,” he said. “There are a couple you go into and don’t see many people and wonder how they keep them open.”

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com

Two office buildings

may be sold or leased

Starbucks says it may lease or sell one office building it owns and another it is building in Pioneer Square “as part of our ongoing efforts to be fiscally responsible.”

When the coffee giant bought properties at 83 King St. and 505 First Ave. S. in 2006, it said it needed them to accommodate overflow from its nearby world headquarters.

The eight-story King Street building contains 204,000 square feet. Starbucks is building a seven-story, 308,000-square-foot building on the First Avenue site next door.

Spokeswoman Tara Darrow said in an e-mail Starbucks is exploring options to sell or lease both buildings. Starbucks employees in 83 King probably will be moved to the headquarters later this year or during the first half of 2009, she said.

Starbucks laid off about 100 headquarters employees in February and June and has eliminated many more jobs there through attrition.

Seattle Times business reporter

Eric Pryne