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.