My mind was kind of blown when I found out there are local coffee shops out there that are not at all what they seem. They have innocent names like “Roy Street Coffee” and “15th Ave Coffee & Tea.” But look closer. Look at the fine print. I mean it, there is literally fine print on the door. Do you read what it says? “Inspired by Starbucks”
Starbucks opened its first stealth-style locations in 2009. It’s a kind of anti-publicity stunt, a big change they didn’t highly publicize or want to associate with the company, a rebranding move so radical that what it does is remove all brands. It’s not a franchise. Starbucks owns, runs, and employs the locations. People started calling them Stealthbucks.
There’s no mermaids anywhere. Not a single green smock. Actually, when you look at some of the photos on yelp, the baristas are bearded guys in flannel. Are they baristas or hired actors?
But apparently the coffee is pretty good. They don’t use normal blends of Starbucks coffee, but Starbucks Reserve, which is their ultra luxury specialty roasted coffee, usually single origin (meaning you can trace the beans to a single farmer, or the same mountainside grove).
The company says it’s not trying to hide anything. They’re not hiding that they’re a Starbucks in disguise for a local coffee shop, they’re just not saying anything. It’s not a lie if you keep your mouth shut, right?
They claim that these locations are for experimenting with the coffee experience in a way that would be impossible in one of the standardized Starbucks. I can’t help but notice they seem to have finally caught on to a certain trend, too. The local coffee shop vibe has attracted many people back into local shops, and somehow a mainstream Starbucks just doesn’t have that local vibe. So they decided to test the market with Stealthbucks. And it turns out people love them, and forget, or at least forget to mention, that it’s a Starbucks.
Their reviews on Facebook and Yelp are glowing. “ I came here to work on my zine for 10 minutes and to have a tea latte with alternative sugar.” (So Indie!) “There is a cozy care worn charm about the decor and ambiance that makes me feel right at home.” (Corporate home aesthetic!) And then at the Roy Street location, in Seattle, someone desperately requests on a review, “Roy…. open a coffee shop in LA.” There’s no Roy. There are probably already stores in LA.
I mean, if I was in a burger place called “Mike’s Burger Joint,” that was own, run, and employed by McDonald’s, I’d want to know. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if they stole this idea. Just pay me for the idea, okay?
Have you been to a Stealthbucks? Are you now going to go to every coffeeshop in your locale and demand the truth?