To: Howard Schultz, Starbucks
From: Ed Murrieta, Tacoma
Subject: The new third place for beer and wine
My employer just awarded me a $7 gift card from Starbucks. I look forward to using it. I drop into the Starbucks nearest my house regularly to purchase the New York Times.
Anyway, I am writing to you today to say your Valentine's Day letter to your staff was very heart-warming. Thank you for your honesty. The Starbucks' experience today is indeed vastly different from what I first experienced as a tourist to Seattle in the late 1980s.
Today, I visit Starbucks mostly so I can read Maureen Dowd.
But to my point: Don't fret about the dilution and demise of your former brand experience.
Now is the time to diversify.
Got bitter beans? Make lemonade.
Specifically, I am suggesting to you that Starbucks gets into the beer and wine business. You already market very tasty coffee liqueur, made for you by Jim Beam.
Remember that yummy Double Black Stout you did with Redhook in the '90s? Bring it back. And slap your siren on some IPA and Hefeweizen, some merlot and Chardonnay while you're at it.
Have your lawyers straighten things out with any pesky liquor control boards.
Then take a look at two South Sound bottle shops for inspiration: 99 Bottles in Federal Way and Steilacoom Wine and Brew in Steilacoom. Now take what they do -- sell high-quality beverages in comfortable environments and with knowledgeable service. At Steilacoom Wine and Brew, you can enjoy a beer on premises, in bottles and on tap. Get the picture, Howard?
I patronize both 99 Bottles and Steilacoom Wine and Brew regularly. Both represent a dynamic shift in beer retailing. You'd be surprised at how many women shop for high-end beers.
Consider the need for clean and attractive third places where women are comfortable, where wine and beer tastings are possible, where you could sell wine, beer and glassware at handsome markups.
You've already got those comfy chairs and easy-listening CDs. You're already selling beer- and wine-friendly foods like sandwiches, fruit and cheese plates and chocolate cakes.
It's time to put the "bar" into barista, Howard.
Think I don't know beans? Let's have a beer.