Starbucks VP on working with Howard Schultz to bring idea to life

By Patricia Riedman Yeager, Contributing Writer

Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of Starbucks, had a vision that he’d been developing for a decade. He wanted to create a shrine to coffee in Seattle, the company’s hometown, where visitors could learn about the bean and the beverage, immerse themselves in the Starbucks brand, and watch as it “rained coffee beans.” One of Schultz’s inspirations? Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

sbux-muller-largeIt was a high-stakes, high-pressure project for the $16 billion, 44-year old company. And making it happen fell to Liz Muller, left, the Vice President of Creative and Global Design at Starbucks. She admits that as a native of Holland, she wasn’t familiar with Mr. Wonka when her boss first referenced the fictional confectioner.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room opened its doors in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood in December. The Roastery is the flagship store for the company’s new Starbucks Reserve brand, a line of small-batch coffee, which will be available in more than 1,500 stores globally this year, and also through a new subscription program. But it’s also an immersive sensory experience — populated by some of the company’s top baristas — that forces consumers to reevaluate how they think about Starbucks.

Starting this year, the company also has plans to open at least 100 stores spotlighting its Reserve brand of rare, small-lot coffee, starting with locations in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C. And the company is planning other large-format stores like the Roastery & Tasting Room in other U.S. and Asia-Pacific cities, as well.

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