There are more than 20,000 Starbucks worldwide, but only one of those stores has a neon letter “f” inside that’s five-feet tall.
The reclaimed art piece might look out of place anywhere else. It fits perfectly in Fremont. The Seattle neighborhood, with a six-ton concrete troll sculpture under a bridge and rocket fuselage attached to a building, calls itself the “center of the universe.”
Starbucks has been in the eclectic, artsy neighborhood for many years. The company relocated from a smaller store in Fremont to a spacious two-level, corner site that opened Friday. (August 8, 2014)
“We kept hearing from customers that they wanted more space to work on a laptop, read a book or just have a place to meet,” said Jed Brady, district manager for Starbucks. “We’re excited to continue serving this great, funky community.”
Inside, a grand staircase made of steel and reclaimed wood leads to a second level featuring community tables, comfortable conversation spaces and window seating.
Starbucks stores with a mezzanine are uncommon in Seattle. From the upper-level, customers can watch openings and closings of the busy Fremont Bridge – a drawbridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They also have they a unique bird’s eye view of the bar area where baristas make handcrafted coffee beverages.
Having a staircase in the middle of the space and floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides of the store inspired Starbucks in-house design team. Starbucks has 18 design offices worldwide to ensure the stores reflect Starbucks passion for coffee and enable partners (employees) to share their coffee knowledge with customers.
“We wanted to create a space that’s light and airy,” said Brian van Stipdonk, senior designer for Starbucks company-owned stores in the Pacific Northwest. “This location will be bright and inviting even on a cloudy day.” Seattle has its share of cloudy days.
Store manager Nicole Adams, a 12-year Starbucks partner, was eager to unlock the doors of her new store and invite people inside. She's worked in Fremont for the past two-and-a-half years and knows many customers who live there. Adams smiled and waved at neighbors passing by on the sidewalk before the new store opened.
“I know all their names,” she said. “This is the store I’ve always wanted to be in. There’s something special about this community. A cool group of artistic humans live here.”
A cool group of artists work in the Starbucks store too. All the partners from the smaller store relocated to the new space just down the block.
“We’re really a reflection of the community. Singers, musicians, dancers and theater performers all work here,” said Jeremy Holzapfel, assistant manager.
He’s also an artist.
Customers who enter the store near the oversized neon letter “f” will notice Holzapfel’s colorful, graphic art displayed on the wall to the right. What’s not obvious is that the pop illustrations represent different points in his battle against cancer. Holzapfel was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma six years ago.
One set of paintings are from 2011 after Holzapfel went through a bone marrow transplant and another set he created just a week ago.
“My paintings changed as my perspective on the world changed,” said Holzapfel, who is now cancer-free. “Through the whole time that I was sick, all I wanted to do was be with my family – my two boys as well as my Starbucks family – and I wanted to come back to work. This store is perfect for me.”
Adams, the store manager, said her team “loves” working together” and hopes community members will consider the Fremont Starbucks a great place to meet.
“I want it to be their home away from home,” she said. “More than anything, I want customers to realize how much our partners care about coffee and the people they serve.”