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Manager says new Starbucks coffee shop will fit well with island
Love it or hate it, Starbucks is coming to Bainbridge Island.
The coffee giant — considered by some to be one of the worst examples of big business monopolizing a craft industry, and by others the quintessential Seattle success story — is expected to open the doors of the newly announced Island Village Shopping Center location by late August.
The store, however, will be a far cry from your average coffee shop.
According to Starbucks, the Bainbridge store is one of the company’s “reserve stores,” meaning it will offer unique and exclusive coffees, unavailable in most other stores, in addition to their staple blends.
Starbucks Reserve Coffee is described by the store as “some of the rarest coffees from Latin America, Africa and Asia, brewed fresh by the cup.”
Also unique to Bainbridge and other select stores is the availability of the Starbucks Clover Brewing System, a unique brewing device which prepares each individual cup of coffee within 1 degree Fahrenheit of the blend’s ideal temperature.
These exclusive amenities, along with the store’s unique overall design plan, are some of the main reasons that store manager Rusten Harris said he was eager to take the job.
“I’m super excited about Bainbridge,” Harris said. “I have always had a big passion for coffee, so they actually approached me about the store.”
Harris has been a Starbucks employee for nearly 10 years and began his career as a part-time barista. He has been the manager of the Poulsbo store for some time and, after a recent company expedition to visit coffee farms in Costa Rica, Harris is excited to move on and manage a new store from the ground up and get island customers excited about exotic coffees.
Harris said that the demand is clearly present on the island for a Starbucks, and added that many Bainbridge customers visit the Poulsbo store already, several of whom he recognized during recent visits to the Starbucks kiosk inside Safeway. That licensed store was, according to Starbucks, opened in 2003 and is operated by Safeway.
The Island Village store will be the first company-owned and operated Starbucks on the island.
The practice of operating actual stores within close proximity of licensed stores is not uncommon, said Starbucks district manager Dave Teves.
In both Port Orchard and Poulsbo, for example, similar situations exist with no noticeable effect on either store.
“They’re two different but also complimentary experiences,” Teves said.
The new store’s design has been planned to reflect the general aesthetic and nautical history of Bainbridge Island and will, according to Starbucks, incorporate local artwork as well as historical photos of Bainbridge, locally sourced reclaimed wood and rope, a fireplace, large tables to support group gatherings and meetings, and also a community board for customers to post information about local events and happenings.
“It’s all about community,” Harris said. “It’s all about community gathering and creating an awesome environment where people can sit down and have a quality cup of coffee.”
The Bainbridge store will employ approximately 15 people. Harris said this week that he is “mostly hired up” but there are “a couple more spots” still open.
Starbucks has long been lauded for its progressive employee treatment, even at the part-time level.
“I’m very much proud to work for Starbucks,” Harris said. “It’s always been nothing but a great company to work for.”
The company’s move to Bainbridge may seem sudden, but Teves said it is an exciting development for everyone involved.
“I’ve only been with the company for a year, so I can’t speak as well to the past,” he explained. “We’re more focused and just excited about the opportunities here now, and the way things have come together. We’re able to bring a really amazing store, that I think really fits the community, and we’re just super excited about the opportunity to do that.”
Harris said he is aware that some residents may be wary of the new store, or view it as an intrusion by some faceless corporation.
“One thing I tell my friends, who sometimes share the same sentiment, is that Starbucks - sure, we’re big - but we also have a conscience,” he said.
“We’re a company that cares about people, that cares about our customers. That’s what I always tell my friends when they get on their corporate coffee pedestals,” Harris said. “I’m like, ‘Listen, big companies aren’t going away, but we have a conscience and we really do live up to our mission: being a human company.’”