Whether you drink coffee or not, you’ve no doubt heard of Starbucks, the world’s largest chain of coffee houses.
With over 34,300 locations, Starbucks has been serving billions of hot beverages since 1971, when their first shop opened in Seattle, Washington.
Since then, the “Original Starbucks” has become a popular tourist destination for coffee aficionados visiting the Pacific Northwest.
But surprisingly, the location that people often refer to as the original Starbucks (located at 1912 Pike Place) isn’t actually the first Starbucks at all.
In this post we go over the history of the original Starbucks location, how it ultimately ended up at Pike Place, and some top tips to know before visiting the first Starbucks in Seattle.
Where was the first Starbucks location?
The first Starbucks was actually located at 2000 Western Avenue, Seattle. This is just one minute away from the current Pike Place Market location.
To understand why so many people are confused about which location is the first Starbucks, here’s a brief history that will put everything into perspective.
Starbucks: The Early Days and Original Location
Starbucks originally opened on March 30, 1971, founded by three business partners who met at the University of San Francisco.
Zev Siegl, Jerry Baldwin, and Gordon Bowker – a history teacher, Boeing programmer, and writer respectively – were the three entrepreneurs who founded Starbucks.
The trio originally settled on the name Starbo, after briefly considering the name Cargo City, which would have been “a terrible, terrible mistake,” according to co-founder Gordon Bowker.
But soon after settling on Starbo as a name, the founders remembered a character named “Starbuck” in the famous book Moby Dick and went with that instead.
The founders have since denied that the name has anything to do with Moby Dick. They insist that an advertising executive told them brand names starting with the letters “ST” were powerful, so they were looking for any names that could fit that criterion.
Once the name was chosen, the first location was soon to follow.
The Original Starbucks Location
2000 Western Ave, the original Starbucks location, now a park/empty lot
The original Starbucks opened in 1971, located at 2000 Western Avenue, Seattle, Washington.
During those early days, the store only sold coffee beans and did not sell brewed coffee or other drinks. Although they occasionally provided smaller brewed samples to wholesale bean buyers.
This is likely the cause of confusion around which location has legitimate claim to the “first Starbucks store”.
It depends on whether your definition of “Original Starbucks” includes a bean shop that occasionally gave samples, or if you’re more interested in the first full-service beverage shop that resembles a current Starbucks cafe.
Starbucks stayed at the 2000 Western Ave location until 1976, when the planned demolition of their leased building forced the move to Pike Place, where they still are today.
The Original Starbucks Logo
Original Starbucks logo – Courtesy of Starbucks
While the Pike Place Market Starbucks uses the brand’s original logo – a naked split-tailed mermaid with the words “Starbucks – Coffee, Tea, Spices” this depiction was deemed as too daring for when the company went corporate, which is why you won’t see it at any other shops.
So where was the real first Starbucks store?
The original Starbucks company location was at 2000 Western Ave, Seattle. But this was a coffee bean shop with limited beverage service. This building was demolished and no longer exists. The original Starbucks store that resembles its current form as a full-service cafe is at 1912 Pike Place, Seattle.
At the end of the day, these are fun facts to know, but silly to argue about.
Both locations played a big role in the history of Starbucks and are both within a one-minute walk of each other.
So head to Pike Place, grab a coffee, then head to 2000 Western Ave and remember all the history that went into the warm drink in your hand!
Visiting the First Starbucks in Seattle (a Tourist’s Guide)
If you’re planning a trip to Seattle and have Starbucks on your itinerary, here are some handy things to know before you visit the 1912 Pike Place location, often referred to as the “first” Starbucks:
- Expect Crowds: This Starbucks is not just another café; it’s a pilgrimage site for coffee lovers from around the world. It often gets crowded, especially during peak tourist season. Consider visiting during off-hours to avoid the longest lines. According to a former manager of this location, in their 5 years of working, there was never a day without a line.
- Unique Merchandise: This Starbucks offers some exclusive merchandise that you won’t find at other Starbucks stores. From mugs to shirts featuring the original logo, it’s a great place to pick up a unique souvenir.
- Local Performances: Pike Place Market is renowned for its local artists and performers. Don’t be surprised if you stumble upon street performers right outside the Starbucks, adding to the lively atmosphere of the place.
- No Seating: The Pike Place Starbucks is relatively small and doesn’t provide seating. The entire location is a humble 1,000 square feet. It’s designed more as a grab-and-go spot. But don’t fret! The scenic waterfront is just a short stroll away – an ideal place to sip and savor your drink.
- Preserved Interiors: One of the unique aspects of this Starbucks is its preserved interiors. Take a moment to look around and appreciate the wooden counters, floors, and vintage artifacts. You’re stepping back in time!
- Learn as You Wait: While you might have to wait in line, use that time to learn. There are plaques and old photos around the store that provide more insights into Starbucks’ rich history.
- Friendly Baristas: Just as in every Starbucks, the baristas here are friendly and knowledgeable. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions about the history of the store or recommendations for your drink.
Remember, the experience of visiting the Pike Place Starbucks is more than just getting a cup of coffee.
It’s about embracing the history, the ambiance, and the culture of a global brand’s humble beginnings.
So, take your time, absorb the experience, and, most importantly, enjoy your drink!