Monday, March 14, 2011
Illustration Friday: Stir
Starbucks has caused a bit of a stir in my life by changing their logo.
Whether we make it at home or buy it in a shop, coffee drinkers love their rituals, and being a visual person, my ritual involves seeing the words STARBUCKS COFFEE happily encircling the little mermaid. The new girl on the block looks a little lost without her nametag, don't you think?
I know that it's not hip and cool to admit it, but I love Starbucks. (Those of you that are groaning and/or rolling your eyes, stay with me.) There are four Starbucks locations within walking distance of my house, a fact that does not disturb me one iota. I first walked into Starbucks about 16 years ago. Having just dropped off my youngest at kindergarten, I was exploring the new-found concept of "me" time. Not knowing exactly what to order, I asked for a latte, which has been my drink of choice since that day. My almost-daily latte has seen me through many an early morning getting two kids off to school (my husband would often make the coffee run and he doesn't even drink coffee), and warmed me up at many cold, wet soccer games. (My family still teases me about the time a soccer player accidentally plowed full-speed into the spectators, knocking me and my chair over, and yet I managed to not spill a drop of my coffee.) I'm not completely adverse to change: each November, when the holiday cups appear, I am filled with glee. (And I love the new perfectly designed stirrer/stoppers.)
I just want the old cups back.
Recently, a commenter on Gawker.com wrote the most articulate argument defense of Starbucks. (Here's the link to the original post.) He wrote:
I get tired of the trendy, hipster attitude of putting down Starbucks, as if pre-Starbucks America was filled with lovely, independent, caring coffee shops that were forced out by this evil, corporate titan. It was not. In fact, "coffee shop" was a synonym for an awful, greasy spoon that you wouldn't go near, relic diners that were far from charming (but of course now we miss them).
Really, before Starbucks there were few places you would actually go to just sit. You met people for lunch or a drink, but "meeting for coffee" was something that happened in old movies and Europe. In many ways, Starbucks trained Americans to think differently, to care more (and yes, pay more) for that black tonic you were tossing down your throat each day, often made in a crusty, petri dish of a pot surrounded by sugar packets and non-dairy creamer in a crummy break room.
Starbucks encouraged people to sit, taste and enjoy. They didn't chase you away once your drink was empty. They put chairs outside, and people slowly began using them (even in winter, like those crazy Europeans!). Because of Starbucks (not in spite of) America became a coffee culture. People started demanding better coffee at home and the office and learned a little more about brewing. New, alternative coffee shops opened up, attracting people allergic to the word "chain." Restaurants and bookstores (some also chains) let people linger longer, and added more year-round outdoor seating. People started to think more about how they lived, what they were eating and drinking, and America became more of a food culture as well.
Is Starbucks corporate and whitewashed? A silly, plastic-y American version of a European lifestyle that's been around forever? Definitely. This is America, if quaint makes money we mass produce quaint. But really, Starbucks is responsible for making this country—our beautiful America with its huge TVs, NASCAR t-shirts and shoot first attitude—a little more sophisticated.