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Starbucks Starter Kit

[whitespace] By David Mills

Although the San Francisco phone book lists only 24 Starbucks, there's good reason to suspect more. A business partnership with Noah's Bagels and Wells Fargo allows newly minted branches to pop up daily, including one that's ready to open in the Safeway mega-plex at Church and Market. To the casual observer it looks as if Starbucks is taking over the planet. And while Starbucks management won't explicitly deny this claim, they do point out that each Starbucks has its own unique style and ambiance. Hmmm? Not much of a consolation. Metropolitan set out to see if Starbucks' one-of-a-kind claim is true. Here's what we found out. Rating system: 1-5 (5 being the highest).

Starbucks Coffee
1750 Divisadero @ Bush

Clientele: vv
Parking: vv
Decor: vvvvv
Service: vvvvv

Parking along Divisadero is no easy feat. Most of the clientele are hospital admin folk from nearby Mt. Zion complex. (Is that a mid-level HR meeting taking place in the corner?) Roomy and well-lit, this Starbucks isn't overly cluttered with cheap retail merchandise. The fresh flowers are a nice touch. A cute, lanky boy behind the counter eagerly asks, "Can I start something for you?" Only if you plan on finishing.


Starbucks Coffee
1899 Union @ Laguna

Clientele: v
Parking: v
Decor: vv
Service: vv

Parking along Union Street is impossible. Which isn't a problem for the patrons--recently downsized corporate execs who wander the Marina aimlessly. This location is bursting with retail crap--soft-sounds CDs, mugs and featured books from Oprah's Book Club ... on tape! The employees are real shouters: "Tall, nonfat, latté!" "Frappuccino™, stat!" And from an old guy in the corner, "I coulda been a contenda!"


Starbucks Coffee Kiosk
369 Pine

Clientele: vvvv
Parking: v
Decor: vvvvv
Service: vvvvv

This efficient little coffee kiosk excels at all the things Starbucks does best: strong coffee, tasty snacks, colorful banner advertisements and cramped quarters for the employees. Set back from the street in a little Financial District alleyway alcove, the closest parking is somewhere near the Rockridge BART station. High-powered corporate types dash down for a caffeine fix and dart back to their offices. The few outdoor tables are occupied only late in the day on casual Fridays. Bonus: fast and furious service from kids who were temps before they got their lips pierced.


Starbucks Coffee
3995 24th @ Noe

Clientele: vv
Parking: vvvvv
Decor: v
Service: vv

The MUNI stop across the street provides the perfect parking place for a quick dash into this popular location. But better keep an eye out for parking cops because you'll be standing in line for a while. The place is packed with Noe Valley denizens--lesbian moms, upscale families, active seniors. Good luck trying to find a seat. People tend to set up camp here, especially on the wide window seats. Lots of natural light is a plus, but the racks full of Easter-themed coffee accessories give off a tacky Hallmark feel. Note of political interest: If it can thrive on this street packed with both activist types and non-chain coffee options, the Starbucks revolution seems unstoppable.


Starbucks at Wells Fargo
1560 Van Ness @ California

Clientele: vvvv
Parking: vvv
Decor: vvvvvv
Service: vvvvvv

For those who treat coffee as an errand, this Starbucks may be just what you're looking for. This food court of the future is a full-service bank, deli, cafe and dry cleaners all in one. Satisfied customers buzz about from station to station taking care of business while slurping down Frappuccinos™. Parking in this area is abysmal, but taxis are plentiful. Low lights and creamy, dark colors make up the decor. The staff and clientele are urban, professional and multiculti. Sit at the little fireplace with fake flame and watch the world go by. Caution: All this activity can be dizzying. For a more soothing pace just step outside and stand on the corner of Van Ness and California. It's a lot quieter.

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From the April 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.


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