A Four-Level Starbucks Roastery Is Coming To Chicago

by Madeleine Aggeler

Midwestern coffee lovers, rejoice! While you were recovering from your Unicorn Frappuccino-induced sugar hangovers, Starbucks announced plans to open a four-level Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Chicago in 2019. Located on Chicago’s famous Magnificent Mile, the Roastery will be the third of its kind in the U.S., following the Seattle location, which opened in 2014, and the New York location, which is set to open in 2018. Each Reserve Roastery roasts, brews, and packages rare, small-lot Reserve beans from around the world, offering customers an immersive (and expensive) coffee experience.

The 43,000 foot space is the largest of the Roastery stores Starbucks has announced so far. In addition to the New York location, the coffee giant will open a Roastery in Shanghai this year, as well as stores in Milan and Tokyo in 2018. Eventually, it plans to open 20 to 30 Roasteries across the globe.

The expansive, upscale coffee shops charge as much as $12 a cup for certain types of their small-batch Reserve brews. Starbucks Reserve, which launched in 2011, is the brand’s premium coffee collection, and each of their rare, single origin whole beans, are sold in small quantities for a limited amount of time. At the Roasteries, customers will be able to watch the Reserve beans being roasted, brewed, and packaged, and select from a variety of brewing methods, including Nitro Cold Brew taps. The stores will also include expanded food menus and hand-made, wood-fired breads from Italian baker Rocco Princi.

The Roastery is the brain-child of Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ former-CEO, who stepped down this month to focus on the Roastery and Reserve concept full-time. “It’s not a coffee store,” Schultz said, “it is the essence of theater and romance and something so experiential.” When he came up with the concept in 2009, he wanted to create “the Willy Wonka of coffee”. This inspiration will apparently carry over into the decor of the Chicago store, where, Schultz stated: “The store gives us an opportunity to do something very dramatic with the escalator that will fit with the Willy Wonka theme.” (My hope? There is no escalator; squirrels throw you up and down garbage chutes a la Veruca Salt.)

The Roastery is the latest in Starbucks’ push to reclaim coffee connoisseurs. While Starbucks was seen as innovative and exotic in the '90s, in recent years it’s become something of a “basic” indulgence, with its increasingly famous, 'grammable drinks. Though the company intends to maintain its grasp on that corner of the market (it announced it’s colorful, swirly Unicorn Frappuccino at around the same time it announced the Chicago Roastery) with the Roasteries, the company hopes to create a “super-premium” brand, one that intends to attract, I imagine, beret-wearing, Henry Thoreau-reading customers who use descriptors besides “hot” and “cold” for their coffee.

This doesn’t mean Starbucks is shifting its entire focus to high-end stores though. In addition to its Reserve Roasteries, Starbucks also plans to open 12,000 new traditional stores by 2021, and it’s currently testing two mobile-only stores in Seattle. In short, Starbucks isn’t moving in one direction, it’s moving in twelve different directions with the aim of providing every possible coffee experience a customer could want. As Business Insider put it: “Starbucks’ new mission: be everything to everyone.”