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Starbucks – a History of a Coffee Empire

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Starbucks (www.starbucks.com) was founded in Seattle in 1971 by Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker and Zev Siegl. It has become the world’s leading coffeehouse and its record label division called Hear Music has developed into a successful way to distribute artists like Paul McCartney. John Mellencamp, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Elvis Costello and The Cars.

The Starbucks chain began with one store in the Pike Place Market, a popular haven of independent businesses in Seattle. That first store remained in that location through 1976 then moved to another area of Pike Place. Starbucks got its name from a character in the Herman Melville novel Moby-Dick. The initial purpose of Starbucks was to sell quality coffee beans not found in other coffee shops.

The three founders had been influenced by San Francisco Bay Area coffeehouse pioneer Alfred Peet, who started Peet’s Coffee & Tea in 1966. Peet taught the founders of Starbucks secrets about roasting coffee beans. At first the Starbucks founders bought their coffee beans directly from Peet, then after a year they started buying from growers. Then Baldwin and the other two founders bought Peet’s in 1984.

Howard Schultz discovered Starbucks in 1981. A few years later Schultz traveled to Italy and was captivated by their coffeehouses. Schultz was attracted to the idea that a coffeehouse could provide a community connection with like-minded individuals. Romance also was part of the vision of a new type of coffeehouse. He began to experiment with his own coffeehouses, then purchased Starbucks in 1988 with help from other Seattle investors. Starbucks then began its rapid growth, expanding to Chicago and other markets.

This is a Starbucks cafe

By the time Starbucks became a publicly traded company on the stock market in 1992, the chain had 165 store locations. By 1996 Starbucks began aiming at international expansion, opening a store in Tokyo then a U.K. store in 1998. By 2003 Starbucks had over 6,000 locations following the acquisitions of Seattle’s Best Coffee and a store from AFC Enterprises called Torrefazione Italia. That same year Starbucks announced its purchase of Diedrich Coffee, leading to even more stores being converted to Starbucks. Throughout 2011 Starbucks opened several stores in China.

The company expanded further into Europe, South America, Russia and Africa. India’s arabica green coffee bean giant Tata Coffee announced an alliance with Starbucks in 2011. The companies began to explore the possibilities of what Starbucks has come to be known for: serving quality coffee in convenient locations. The agreement involved collaboration on farming as well as marketing the product. Tata Coffee’s facilities became the site of this collaboration.