Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Reefmonkey

Your First Starbucks

Recommended Posts

Driving past another new Starbucks location in my neighborhood this morning, got to thinking. Starbucks is so ubiquitous now, and has been for so long, with a location every few hundred yards (it sometimes seems), but I do remember a time when Starbucks was a novelty in Houston. I'm trying to get an idea of where and when Starbucks really exploded on the scene here in Houston. Where and when does everyone remember going to their first Starbucks in Houston in the 90s?

 

Me:

 

circa 1994

5508 FM 1960 W (NE corner of FM 1960 and Champion Forest Drive - since moved to the NW corner)

 

Houston Chronicle says the first Starbucks was the Highland Village location, then the Galleria, then Westheimer and Fountainview, and then a fourth location opened in February 1995, but it doesn't say where. I'm not sure if that is quite true, I distinctly remember going with my family to Starbucks after dinner up at the 1960/Champion Forest Drive store, my senior year of high school when it was a novelty for us (I was class of 1994). Perhaps though that intersection wasn't considered to be in the Houston city limits at that time, so the Chronicle doesn't count it.

Edited by Reefmonkey

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not 100% sure, but I think my first was in the tunnels near One Shell.  It seems like the one on West Gray at Shepherd was there pretty early on.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
25 minutes ago, Subdude said:

I'm not 100% sure, but I think my first was in the tunnels near One Shell.  It seems like the one on West Gray at Shepherd was there pretty early on.  

I think I've almost forgotten which one on West Gray came first - it was the one of the south side, right?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The first one was the Highland Village location, I even have vague memories of the TCBY location it replaced. As for my source, my fiance who was a manager for about 3 years worked at the nearby Uptown location. One of the employees there had transferred from Highland Village and had been there since the store opened.

 

Also you're correct on West Gray the location in the strip center came first, the drive-thru came second.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought the one on Westheimer at Fountainview was the first in Houston. My first was the Meyerland location; I remember going there with my church group in probably 1995-96. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/15/2018 at 11:25 AM, Subdude said:

I'm not 100% sure, but I think my first was in the tunnels near One Shell.  It seems like the one on West Gray at Shepherd was there pretty early on.  

 

The first one I recall going to was at The Shops at Houston Center in late 1999.  Got addicted to the caramel frappacino for a while.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The following was written after Lewis Black played the Laff Stop in River Oaks Plaza, so both W Gray Starbucks were open sometime before that performance.
"I've seen the end of the universe, and it happens to be in the United States and, oddly enough, it's in Houston, Texas. I know - I was shocked, too. Imagine my surprise when I left a comedy club one day and walked to the end of the block, and there on one corner was a Starbucks, and across the street from that Starbucks, in the exact same building as that Starbucks, there was - a Starbucks. I looked back and forth, thinking the sun was playing tricks with my eyes. That there was a Starbucks across from a Starbucks - and that, my friends, is the end of the universe."

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, dbigtex56 said:

The following was written after Lewis Black played the Laff Stop in River Oaks Plaza, so both W Gray Starbucks were open sometime before that performance.
"I've seen the end of the universe, and it happens to be in the United States and, oddly enough, it's in Houston, Texas. I know - I was shocked, too. Imagine my surprise when I left a comedy club one day and walked to the end of the block, and there on one corner was a Starbucks, and across the street from that Starbucks, in the exact same building as that Starbucks, there was - a Starbucks. I looked back and forth, thinking the sun was playing tricks with my eyes. That there was a Starbucks across from a Starbucks - and that, my friends, is the end of the universe."

 

 

Lewis missed the fact that there are actually three Starbucks on that corner.  The third is in the Barnes and Noble (and is visible from the one across the street through the windows).  But he missed the real Starbucks feat, at the corner of Post Oak and Westheimer there were technically four Starbucks at one point, though they weren't visible from one another.  There was the big one at the corner, one in the Barnes and Noble that used to be across Post Oak from it, and two in the Galleria across the street.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, august948 said:

 

..... The third is in the Barnes and Noble (and is visible from the one across the street through the windows).....

 

Of course, B&N wasn't there when Lewis Black came up with his bit.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
46 minutes ago, gnu said:

 

Of course, B&N wasn't there when Lewis Black came up with his bit.

 

Wasn't it?  I guess by the time I heard about the joke it was already there.

 

So, we've doubled down on the end of the universe since then.  I'm glad I don't have to move to someplace like Austin to experience it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember before Starbucks made it to Houston, a few of the malls had locations of a chain "gourmet" coffee store going back to at least the mid 80s, was it Gloria Jeans? I just remembered how good they smelled when you walked by them, and unlike Starbucks, their stock in trade was not selling beans from Sumatra or Tanzania, but coffee beans flavored with various flavorings, chocolate, hazelnut, "irish coffee" with artificial whiskey flavoring, etc. I think people had become so used to "gourmet coffee" being coffee with added flavors, that I remember when Starbucks first started popping up in the Houston area, they had to have signs explaining why they did not offer flavored coffee beans, that the flavorings can migrate over to unflavored beans nearby, and are often used to cover up inferior bean flavors, but assured customers they could have a shot of flavored syrup in their coffee if they wanted.

 

Oh yeah, here's an article on Gloria Jeans in 1991 - "Gloria Jean's Leads the Specialty Coffee Stampede". If only they knew what the next 5 years had in store for them.

 

https://www.nytimes.com/1991/08/11/business/gloria-jean-s-leads-the-specialty-coffee-stampede.html

 

Americans have been sipping fewer cups of coffee over all in the last few years, yet sales of specialty coffees like Hawaiian Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain are surprisingly strong. Also surprising has been the success of a small company called Gloria Jean's, a chain of shops that sell exotic coffees, coffee-making equipment and, in some stores, cups of hot and cold brew.

The Gloria Jean's Coffee Bean Corporation, based in Buffalo Grove, Ill., opened for business in 1979 as a single shop. Seven years later, it started expanding through the sale of franchises and now has 110 stores -- all with a hardwood and forest-green decor -- in 26 states.

The company offers more than 60 types of imported coffees from countries like Indonesia, Brazil and Colombia as well as a wide selection of flavored coffees like chocolate raspberry and french vanilla, as well as chocolate-covered espresso beans. These specialty coffees sell for anywhere from $6 to $25 a pound.

Gloria Jean's is not the only coffee seller that seems to be thriving through franchises. Another concern, the Coffee Beanery Ltd. has 67 units, of which 47 are franchised. With sales of about $14 million in 1990, the Coffee Beanery specializes in Guatemalan coffees and also carries a selection of varietals.

JoAnne Shaw, the chain's president, said sales have been growing about 50 percent a year. By the end of this year Mrs. Shaw and her husband, Julius, expect to have 77 stores open.

Continue reading the main story
 

Gloria Jean's story is a tale of a small family-owned business carving a niche for robust coffee at a time when many consumers have turned to decaffeinated brands and some have forsaken the drink altogether.

Even the company's founders, Edward and Gloria Jean Kvetko, admit that the company's good fortune has come almost by accident. "At first the business was just a hobby, not intended to be a money maker but rather a tax write-off," Mr. Kvetko said in a telephone interview.

But Gloria Jean's is much more than that now. The privately held concern does not disclose its earnings, but the company said it had sales of $32 million in 1990, up sharply from $18 million in 1989.

Its franchising affiliate, the Gloria Jean's Coffee Bean Franchising Corporation, earned $600,000 last year in franchising fees. Mr. Kvetko expects those fees to almost double in 1991. Last year, 30 stores were opened and an additional 35 are scheduled to open by the end of this year.

The specialty coffee market has grown by more than 30 percent in each of the last three years, according to Find/SVP, a statistical research firm in New York. In fact, specialty coffee and decaffeinated brews are the only categories that have increased sales in the last three years. Retail sales of specialty coffees have more than tripled in six years and now account for nearly 10 percent of sales in the $6.5 billion coffee market.

WHEN bean prices rose in the mid-1980's, the big manufacturers turned to lower quality beans that tended to produce less flavorful coffee. "For a time, coffee became dark hot water," said Tom Pirko, president of Bevmark Inc., a food and beverage consultant in Los Angeles. "Specialty coffee has turned the coffee business around, and Gloria Jean's is riding the crest of a real strong wave."

National brands are acknowledging the change in tastes and Maxwell House, Taster's Choice and Folgers have made modest attempts to tap the market by introducing "premium" brands with names like Rich French Roast, Colombian Supreme and Gourmet Supreme.

To be sure, there are other specialty coffee stores like Starbucks Coffee and Peet's Coffee and Tea on the West Coast or stores like Zabar's in New York that also serve consumers craving a cup of pure Ethiopian Harrar or Jamaican Blue Mountain. What sets Gloria Jean's apart is that it is in the business not just of selling coffee but also of selling a business.

The Kvetkos opened the first Gloria Jean's store in 1979 in Long Grove, 26 miles northwest of Chicago. Mr. Kvetko, who quit school after the eighth grade, is a self-taught coffee connoisseur. "I would read books about coffee from Brazil and Indonesia and became fascinated," he said. That fascination rubbed off on Mrs. Kvetko, who operated a beauty salon before the couple bought a small gift shop that sold imported coffee. "We liked the way the coffee tasted, and we thought this would be a great opportunity to save the store, which had been unprofitable," Mr. Kvetko said.

In 1986, they decided to expand by selling franchise licenses. Advertisements in The Wall Street Journal, Inc. magazine and franchise trade publications draw about 300 inquiries a month from potential franchisees, according to Roger Badesh, a spokesman for Gloria Jean's.

 

Through franchising, Gloria Jean's has seen its stores sprout up in more than 100 malls and shopping centers in California, Illinois, Arizona, Texas and Virginia and many other states.

AT Gloria Jean's, nearly everything is handled for the franchisee, including lease negotiations, site location and advertising. To guarantee uniformity, Mr. Kvetko, formerly a construction contractor, has designed all the store fixtures while Mrs. Kvetko has created the interior look. All materials are shipped to the site at one time on a Gloria Jean's truck.

"The cutbacks within corporations have sent a lot of people looking for career alternatives," said Mr. Kvetko, who will celebrate his 50th birthday this week. "Owning a franchise enables many to continue to use their corporate experience."

Mr. Kvetko says it takes $180,000 to $220,000 to open a store. Franchisees pay a royalty fee of 6 percent of gross sales and receive sales-and-management training (a course called Coffee 101) at the parent company's sprawling new corporate headquarters.

Richard J. Gorecki and his wife, Bonnie, opened their coffee store in the Hawthorne shopping center in Vernon Hills, Ill., in June. Mr. Gorecki said Gloria Jean's offered "a strange, and delightful continuity" in all its stores. Sales have been "unexpectedly robust," he added.

Gloria Jean's has decided to test the market abroad and is negotiating with a British investor group to make the its name visible in London. "The main coffee market in Europe is instant, and Europeans tend to like a stronger cup of coffee so the roast would have to be different," Mr. Kvetko said, adding that "the biggest challenge is to teach them how to prepare coffee properly."

But for now, in the summertime in the United States, Gloria Jean's is taking full advantage of the popularity of iced coffee drinks. There has been aggressive promotion of a variety of cold drinks like Praline Parfait, which is made with vanilla yogurt, espresso coffee and pralines.

"It's not just espresso and cappuccino anymore," Mr. Pirko said.

Agreed. "We don't tell our customers how to drink coffee," Mr. Badesh said. "We simply offer a wide selection of imported and flavored beans and tell the customer to enjoy."

The company's dedication to broadening its selection is shown by a recent trip by Mr. Kvetko to Indonesia, where he negotiated an agreement that will enable Gloria Jean's to import an Indonesian bean called Celebes Kalosie into the United States.

Gloria Jean Kvetko says that as more people learn about specialty coffee, the growth in the market will continue. Specialty coffees are made solely from arabica beans, which generally have less caffeine and are more flavorful than robusta beans. Arabica beans are grown at higher mountain elevations in countries like Colombia for long periods of time.

Despite their rapid growth in recent years, Gloria Jean's and other specialty shops are not guaranteed continued success. Mr. Pirko, the beverage analyst, said the small shops have done well in part because big companies like Procter & Gamble and General Foods have not made substantial investments in the specialty market. "A company the size of Nestle can blow the small companies away," he said.

Timothy J. Castle, president of the Specialty Coffee Association, a trade group in Long Beach, Calif.. said the revival of the international coffee agreement, which had limited the amount of coffee imported into the United States and which expired in 1989, would reduce the access of the specialty stores to gourmet coffees.

"THE prices of imported coffees would obviously be higher," said Mr. Castle, who is the author of "The Perfect Cup, a Coffee Lover's Guide to Buying, Brewing and Tasting."

"When you have greater competition, the bigger companies generally prevail," Mr. Pirko said. "So it's commendable that Gloria Jean's has done so well."

Edited by Reefmonkey

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...