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Star Craft

Seattle's coffee giant does the indie thing in Holland

Author Jay Cheshes

AMSTERDAM—How does the world’s largest coffee chain shake off its one-size-fits-all image? For Seattle-based Starbucks—which is looking to move into new markets in Europe and Asia—the answer is to replace its gangbusters Starbucks-upon-Starbucks expansion model with a hyperlocal approach. The company’s new flagship in Amsterdam is the ultimate expression of this corporate about-face. “Just because you have a huge footprint on the planet doesn’t mean you have to do the exact same thing wherever you go,” says Liz Muller, Starbucks’ Dutch-born concept design director.

Built in the former vault of the historic Amsterdamsche Bank on Rembrandt Square, the Amsterdam Starbucks is the company’s first European concept café and its largest outpost on the continent. “This is the most iconic Starbucks in the world right now,” says Muller. The 4,500-square-foot space features the work of some 35 local artists and artisans, as well as some ingenious recycled design elements. Old bicycle inner tubes function as soundproofing along one wall. Stools crafted like bike seats, with worn leather stretched over springs, line the counter at the “slow coffee theater,” where reserve beans are brewed using the Clover vacuum system—a first for Starbucks in Europe. Chairs rescued from a nearby public school surround tables made from oak stumps. The blue and white tiles found in every kitchen in Amsterdam cling to the bank’s concrete pillars, and hundreds of intricate speculaas molds—for making the traditional Dutch cookies—have been transformed into wall art.

The whole space has been designed with lingering in mind. “The Dutch don’t run around with a cup in the street,” says Muller. “They want their coffee in a ceramic mug. And they want to sit down and enjoy it with a cookie.”

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