retail news in context, analysis with attitude

This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.Hi, Kevin Coupe here and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy ... coming to you this week from the Starbucks Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle, Washington. The company describes this 15,000 square foot facility as "dedicated to roasting, coffee education and increasing availability of the company’s small-lot Reserve coffees. Every Reserve coffee bean sold to customers will be roasted in the facility." It is, the company says, "the fulfillment of a decade-long dream – an homage to our relentless pursuit of coffee innovation that will create for our customers the most immersive, sensory demonstration of how we source, roast and craft the finest coffee from around the world."

What it feels like, to steal a metaphor from Stew Leonard's, is kind of a Disneyland of coffee shops. Not only does it provide a wide range of drinks, many of them not available in its traditional stores, but it also offers tons of information about the coffee business in general, and Starbucks' approach to roasting beans in particular. It is totally immersive, with physical and virtual tours and lots to eat and drink. And there's nothing museum-like about it - it is fairly vibrating with activity. (I'm including some pictures for your viewing pleasure.)

In this sense, it is exactly what a great food retail experience should be. Tons of unique and delicious product, presented in a compelling and differentiated atmosphere, and offering relevant information that helps to sell both the items on the shelves and the overall retail philosophy.

(One quick note here. One thing the Starbucks Roastery also offers is a coed rest room - there is a bank of sinks open to everyone, and two lines of individual stalls with walls that run floor to ceiling. It takes some folks a moment to understand how it works, but then it becomes acceptable and even perfectly natural pretty quickly. No discussion about birth gender and/or gender identity here - we all just have to get along. It is a refreshingly mature approach to a subject that has created controversy around the country.)

One can belly up to the bar, like I did, and order something called a Shakerato Bianco, which is a kind of espresso drink swerved with a shot of sweet cream, and then follow that with an Americano con Crema ... and I could have ordered a bunch more, but I was full.

The reason I was full was another feature of the Roastery - Starbucks ha steamed up to include in the facility a Serious Pie, which is the pizza concept created by Tom Douglas, one of the best chefs and restaurateurs in Seattle. I've long felt that Serious Pie serves some of the best pizza around, and so to find it here was like walking through the gates of heaven.

Before I went to the coffee bar, I ventured over the the Serious Pie corner of the building, sat down and ordered a pie with sweet fennel sausage, roasted peppers, and provolone. At first I was going to have some coffee, but I realized that they also were serving beer and wine, and since it was five o'clock somewhere, I had an Amnesia Crystal Red Ale, which was perfect.

And I thought to myself, this is a place with pizza, beer, wine and coffee. All the major necessary food groups. Just roll me in a cot, and I'd never have to leave.

Like I said. Just a slice of heaven in Seattle.

That's what's on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to know what is on your mind.

KC's View: