Suppose Central Perk, the fictional coffee house from “Friends” had also served regional wine, beer and cheeses? Monica and the gang would have sat on that big orange couch debating whether Ross and Rachel were actually on a break while drinking a Riesling from the Finger Lakes region instead of a really big cappuccino. And probably, the thousands of coffee houses that popped up after the debut of “Friends” in 1994 would also have served alcohol.

The Central-Perk-meets-corner-bar feeling (“Cheers,” perhaps?) seems to be what Starbucks is going for with its newest venture. I first told you last summer (I’ll take a Venti Pinot Grigio, please) about the coffee company's plans to pilot a café that also sells wine and coffee in Seattle. That café is now a reality.

The Olive Way, with its LEED credentials, opened on Monday and serves coffee all day and beer and wine after 4 p.m. If it’s a success, Starbucks will open more cafés that “look less like today’s coffee shops and more like a café that’s been part of the neighborhood for decades.”

In addition to serving regional beer, wine and cheese, the cafés will also have a different feel than Starbucks coffee-only stores.

  • They’ll maintain the personality of the local real estate — looking more like they belong in the individual neighborhood than like a cookie-cutter store.
  • They’ll be more “green” — using reclaimed woods and other recycled materials.
  • They’ll foster a sense of community with “community tables” created by local artists that can seat up to 15 people at a time.
I like the sound of this, but what I like most of all is that regional wines, beers and cheeses are being served. If more of these cafés are built across the country, it could be a big boost for small local producers. I don’t frequent Starbucks all that often, but I would probably keep an open mind if Starbucks built one of these stores in South Jersey — especially if it offered wine from some of my favorite local wineries.

Source: MSNBC

  

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