Starbucks super-cafe, clash are both brewing

Much more than a mere coffee store: The Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle.
Much more than a mere coffee store: The Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle.

BY YANNIC RACK | If you think Starbucks has already taken over every corner in New York City, think again — and think big.

In what might be the beginning of an international trend, the company announced that it is opening a 20,000-square-foot superstore, designed by famed architect Rafael Viñoly, in the Meatpacking District.

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, which will be the ubiquitous coffee chain’s largest outlet in the world, is modeled on the concept store and interactive showroom of the same name that debuted in the company’s hometown of Seattle two years ago — and will stand in stark contrast to the more than 300 Starbucks cafes that already dot the city.

“Our Seattle Roastery experience created something that had never been done before, transforming a retail environment into something far beyond just a coffee shop, and into the single best retail experience of any kind,” said Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairperson and C.E.O.

The roastery — which teaches visitors about the crop-to-cup process of sourcing coffee and will also sell the brand’s small-batch specialty roasts — is set to open in 2018 inside a nine-story building now being built at 61 Ninth Ave., at the corner of W. 15th St.

“A local sensation [in Seattle] since opening its doors, the Roastery is coffee as theater, encouraging customers to interact with Starbucks roasters and baristas in order to deepen their understanding of the art behind sourcing, roasting and brewing rare coffees,” a company statement said.

Starbucks had reportedly been eyeing another location in Asia — its fastest-growing market — to open the second Roastery.

The new tasting-room concept was launched to build the company’s brand in the higher-end coffee market, and help it remain relevant amid the rise of specialty coffee roasters, like Stumptown, which has two cafes in the city.

Starbucks can likely expect a steady flow of customers to the new coffee complex in the Meatpacking District’s northern end, since it is near Chelsea Market, Google’s New York offices and the High Line.

The building, on a former lumberyard that was sold in 2015, is being developed by Vornado Realty Trust and Aurora Capital Associates. Above the three-story retail base, it will house offices.

Aurora is also redeveloping the former Pastis site at Ninth Ave. and W. 12th St., where a Restoration Hardware superstore is planned, and hopes to upzone and redevelop the south side of historic Gansevoort St. between Greenwich and Washington Sts.

The coffee chain made headlines a few weeks ago when one of its stores, on Seventh Ave. near W. 23rd St., saw construction begin next door on a Dunkin’ Donuts. It didn’t surprise industry watchdogs, though.

According to the Center for an Urban Future, a think tank that tracks chains’ spread in the city, Dunkin’ Donuts is now the city’s largest chain based on number of locations. It has added more than 100 stores over the last five years, bringing the current figure to 568, while Starbucks has added more than 40 during that time, bringing its total to 307.