Starbucks to shutter its last indie-esque ‘stealth’ concept store

Roy Street Coffee and Tea had been open in Seattle for a decade.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Starbucks’ longtime experiment with indie-like “concept” stores appears to be coming to a close.

The Seattle-based coffee giant confirmed plans Tuesday to shutter its 10-year-old Roy Street Coffee and Tea operation at the end of April.

“As part of Starbucks standard course of business, we continually evaluate our business to ensure a healthy store portfolio,” a Starbucks spokeswoman said in a statement to Restaurant Business. “After careful consideration, we’ve made the difficult decision to close the store on Roy Street. Our last day at this location will be April 28, 2019. All Starbucks partners (employees) working at that store will have the opportunity to transfer to one of our locations in Seattle.”

The company did not respond to questions about the brand’s overall plans for these concept stores, referred to by some as “stealth Starbucks.” At one point in recent years, Starbucks operated two such indie-ish coffee shops in Seattle, one in New York City and one in Austin, Texas, according to media reports.

The Starbucks website lists the Roy Street Coffee and Tea shop as one of its cafes. But the actual store, which featured front doors salvaged from a film set, light fixtures created by local artists and vintage furniture, does not have the traditional green Starbucks colors or logos.

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said in a 2010 interview that the unbranded stores were a testing ground for the company. It’s where Starbucks tested alcohol sales, for example.

“It wasn’t so much that we were trying to hide the brand,” he told Marketing Magazine. “[We were] trying to do things in those stores that we did not feel were appropriate for Starbucks.”

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