Final Reflection

1 Jan

365 Days | 212 Starbucks | 1 Great City

December Starbucks

On this day last year, I sat down at the Starbucks on 52nd street and 8th avenue and committed to a rather odd new year’s resolution. I decided that I would visit every single Starbucks on the island of Manhattan and blog about each one. I had been thinking about this for quite sometime, and it seemed liked the perfect solution to combine my desire to explore my new home and my commitment to write more in the year of 2013. And that is exactly what I did.

When I started this blog, there were 202 Starbucks in Manhattan, according to a report by the Center for an Urban Future. Now, both according to my records and the Center’s 2013 report, there are 212 Starbucks in Manhattan, New York — 208 of which are available to the general public. For easy reference, I’ve assembled a complete List of all the Starbucks I encountered on my journey. I also created a Map using Google Maps Engine that will give anyone interested a guided tour of some of the best (and worst) Starbucks in Manhattan.

So one year, 208 Starbucks and 224 blog entries later, I am back at the Starbucks on 52nd & 8th to collect my thoughts and reflect on the many, many things I’ve discovered in the highly caffeinated year of 2013. This Starbucks hasn’t changed at all from what I remember of it. The chairs are still a mismatched combination of wood and metal, and the crowd is still heavy and touristy. But the person that sat at this Starbucks on January 1st, 2013 has gone through more changes in a year than most go through in five. I live in a new apartment in a new neighborhood. I’ve held four different jobs and changed career paths entirely. I’ve traveled north, west and south. I even found a boyfriend along the way. But, most substantially, I’ve found a home in New York City — which probably means I’ve also become significantly less patient. Oh well, no time to lose sleep over that one.

Someone once told me that it takes at least five years of living in the city for someone to truly be considered a New Yorker. I’ve also heard that it’s at that time that you decided whether you will stay in the city or move on. Well, I can’t say I know every nook of every neighborhood or completely identify as a New Yorker, but perhaps my journey this year has shaved a year or two off that time.

If I had to sum up my year’s exploration into one fact, it is that the Starbucks of New York City represent more than just the neighborhoods where they are located. They represent the ever-changing state of urban life and the people that are attracted to it. Some may call this gentrification. I also think the term McDonaldization fits quite nicely. So am I saying New York is beginning to resemble one giant fast food chain? Well, partly yes I am. But I don’t see this as a societal problem which needs to be combated, rewound or snuffed out. It’s just a side effect of our collective culture’s desire for speed, consistency and familiarity. And what brand fits that description more than Starbucks.

Where some people view Starbucks — and similar corporate chains — as an encroaching threat to all things unique and significant in New York, I see it as only the supply for society’s demand for a familiar cup of coffee — or maybe a frozen espresso beverage topped with whipped cream. And if you go into a New York City Starbucks — whether it be in the East Village or the Upper West Side — you won’t see robotic baristas or Stepford men and women in line. You’ll catch a short glimpse of the characteristics and idiosyncrasies that are unique to that neighborhood. That’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.

Happy New Year!

NYC Starbucks: 31st & 7th

31 Dec

31st and 7th Starbucks

Today is the day. The Starbucks on 31st and 7th Avenue is the last Starbucks I’ve yet to visit in Manhattan. This is the 20th Starbucks I’ve rated in the month of December and the 208th I’ve rated in 2013. Whoa. It’s been quite a ride. But I’ll reflect more on that tomorrow. For now I still need to spill the T on this Midtown Starbucks.

Surprisingly, there’s not much dirt to dish. This is one of the few impressive Starbucks in the heart of Midtown, Manhattan. This Starbucks is neither cramped, narrow nor closet-like. It actually has a large downstairs lobby and plenty of additional seating in its upstairs seating loft. Besides the typical coffee pictures on the walls, there is plenty of unique decor such a mural of gears and NYC public transportation near the front entrance. There’s even giant coffee bags resting atop the shelves of Starbucks merchandise. One of the baristas informed me the Starbucks was remodeled just a few years ago, so I have to assume that is when all this nifty decor arrived.

On the negative side, this Starbucks does attract a pretty hefty crowd. I had a momentary wait before I could sit upstairs and some have come and left without finding a seat at all. Also, the once available upstairs power outlets have been covered up and the WiFi is a tad on the slow side. So if you’re coming to do some work on your laptop, you may want to bring a full battery and some patience — or possibly a screwdriver. The lighting is also slightly on the dim side, but I think that’s part of the design theme.

So there you have it. That’s the Starbucks on 31st and 7th in a nutshell. See more details below, and check back tomorrow for my final reflection on Starbucks, blogging and this great city called New York.

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NYC Starbucks: 103rd & Broadway

29 Dec

103rd and Broadway Starbucks

Did you know that Broadway has the most Starbucks located on it when compared to any other avenue in New York City? By my count there are 36 individual Starbucks locations off Broadway, and they just keep on coming. I think the only thing that rivals the amount of Starbucks on Broadway is the number of Bank of Americas. Every other street there seems to be one on the corner beckoning me to make an ATM withdrawal. I’m not really complaining since it is my bank of choice, but the concentration of them on this single avenue is kind of weird. I’m only used to seeing Starbucks on most street corners. Well, that or Subways.

I’m currently sitting at the Starbucks on the southeast corner of 103rd and Broadway. After reviewing the new Starbucks just a few blocks south on 99th street, I couldn’t help pay this one a visit as well. It’s not really that I’m pressed for time — not anymore at least — but I just couldn’t help compare these two locations a mere four blocks away.

Although both are on Broadway and conveniently located near trains, this one definitely attracts a larger crowd. Perhaps it’s because this one actually has a public restroom for patrons to use. There’s also twice as much seating here and a little more room to spread out. But this Starbucks’ decor is also much more dated than its southern counterpart, and the lighting here is  very dim, especially on a rainy day like today with limited natural lighting.

I guess the moral of this story is that no matter what your likes and dislikes, Broadway has a Starbucks for you. Not at one that suits your interest, just walk a few blocks in either direction and you’re sure to find another.

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NYC Starbucks: 99th & Broadway

29 Dec

99th and Broadway Starbucks

The Starbucks on 99th and Broadway is the most recent addition to the Upper West Side and possibly Manhattan altogether. I only discovered this location last week and after paying it a quick visit I found it the Starbucks is only a few weeks young. And now I’m back to stay awhile and soak it in before the year is up and over.

Speaking of soaking… it’s presently pouring here in New York. Luckily, I was able to dive into this Starbucks just before it really started coming down. And I’m not the only one seeking shelter and a warm beverage until the rain lets up. Although I wouldn’t say this Starbucks is all too crowded, it is relatively small and fills up kind of fast. There’s just three barstools and one communal table to share with no public restroom — which is probably why the crowd doesn’t linger all too long. Thankfully, this location was beautifully designed with all of Starbucks latest and greatest decor such as in-wall refrigeration units and wood paneling throughout. So even if your visit is a short one, it can still be a pleasant one.

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Reflection: The Four That Got Away

27 Dec

NYC Starbucks

In this marvelous city of 212 Starbucks, there is one thing that surprised me more than most: there are some Starbucks in NYC that are not open to the public. Some are easier to access than others, such as the ones within universities like FIT and Pace. But there are others within private businesses and office buildings that I simply could not pay a visit to. Four, to be exact:

  • The Starbucks inside the Limited Brands building at 1740 Broadway
  • The Starbucks inside the Burlington House building at 1345 Sixth Avenue
  • The Starbucks inside the JP Morgan Chase building at 270 Park Avenue
  • The Starbucks within the New York Stock Exchange at 11 Wall Street

Each of these buildings have posted security on site during operating hours and entrance is not permitted without a pass to the building or an invitation from one of the businesses within — trust me, I tried. I think it’s fair to say I confused several doormen when declaring the only reason I wanted access to their building was to see the Starbucks inside. No doubt they thought I was crazy, but I wanted to be thorough. I especially wanted to see the Starbucks within the New York Stock Exchange, since it’s such an important part of this country’s economy. I even wrote to the owners of the building, but no luck.

Part of me was — and still is — a little disappointed that there are four Starbucks in this city that I cannot easily pay a visit to. But I’ve sat on this for a while, and come to the conclusion that missing these four locations may be for the best. After all, only those who work there can access them. So even if they are wonderful and spacious, neither me nor anyone else could easily pay them a second visit. I guess it just goes to show you that in a city that thrives on caffeine, a coffee house like Starbucks can easily survive without opening its doors to the public at large.

With four days to spare, this leaves just three Starbucks left for me to visit in Manhattan. Although I’m terribly excited to finish this adventure, part of me is also wondering: where did the year go?

NYC Starbucks: 125th & Lenox

25 Dec

125th and Lenox Starbucks

I thought long and hard on which New York City Starbucks I would visit on Christmas Day. In the end, I decided no Starbucks is more fitting than the one in Harlem on the corner of 125th & Lenox Ave — aka Malcolm X Blvd.

This Starbucks is unlike any others in Manhattan. This is one of the five Starbucks Community Stores that exist worldwide. This means a portion of this store’s profits gets sent directly to a non-profit organization within the community that focuses on improving it. This particular Starbucks partners with an organization called the Abyssinian Development Corporation. A plaque inside the Starbucks explains the relationship:

“Welcome to Your Starbucks

We can only succeed as a store when we succeed as a community. We are together in this — and so we are proud to share the profits of this Starbucks store directly with Abyssinian Development Corporation to support its work with the children and families of Harlem. To achieve its mission, Abyssinian Development Corporation provides economic revitalization, housing, social services, eduction and civic engagement in Harlem and beyond.

A new store model and a new way to support our community.”

Now, I’m not a corporate social responsibility expert, but I think that’s pretty darn amazing. Not only is it doing good, but it’s doing good at a local level. The more the neighborhood drinks Starbucks, the more it benefits. It’s kind of genius. And very much a representation of what the holiday season and Christmas is supposed to be all about.

Merry Christmas!

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NYC Starbucks: Pearl & State

24 Dec

Pearl and State Starbucks

On this Christmas Eve, I decided to take a trip to the Starbucks closest to Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. This Starbucks is on the corner of Pearl and State streets and is located directly between Battery Park City and South Ferry.

When I emerged from the subway station, I was surprised by the desolate looking Battery Park that expanded far toward the water. Then I turned around and the familiar skyscrapers and construction scaffolding reassured me I was still in Manhattan. Although the park is not much to look at now in this winter blight, I’m sure it is a pretty sight to see in the spring.

The Starbucks that lies across the street from the park is large and crowded. The line inside is mostly tourists but I can also pick out a few locals that are most likely coming from or going to Staten Island. Although there is plenty of space, there is only seating in the back area furthest from the barista bar. There is also a bar lining the exterior walls in the front but no high tops to go with it — probably because they would just make the place even more crowded. After all, no one likes to sit down with a constantly shifting crowd pressing at their backs anyway.

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NYC Starbucks: 75th & Broadway

22 Dec

75th and Broadway Starbucks

This time last week, it was snowing in New York City. Today it’s 70 degrees and I’m sitting at Starbucks drinking iced coffee. But never fear! Apparently this odd warm spell will be short lived, and we’ll all be forced to drink hot coffee by Christmas morning. Or maybe even some hot cocoa.

The Starbucks that I’m sitting at is an Upper West Side location that initially escaped my research. According to the baristas it underwent a remodel earlier this year, so there’s a chance it was closed down and unlisted for a while. I can’t say for sure what it looked like before, but I can say with certainty that it is a well designed Starbucks now. The decor is definitely its best attribute. On the walls hang a few framed photographs that portray people in metro areas enjoying Starbucks in various fashions. I’ve only ever seen these at one other Starbucks before, and they’re definitely more attractive than pictures of coffee beans and the roasting process. There’s also some pretty nifty looking lighting throughout. Above you can see the lighting ornament that hangs directly above the milk cart.

Apart from the decor, this Starbucks is average sized; it has a good amount of seating, one restroom, a consistently crowded lobby and a location that makes it convenient for a quick pick-me-up while Christmas shopping. Speaking of — that’s my mission for the rest of the day. Wish me luck!

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NYC Starbucks: 23rd & 1st

21 Dec

23rd and 1st Starbucks

I really was not expecting to find very many great Starbucks left in Manhattan this close to the year’s end. Yet, here I sit at the beautifully designed Starbucks on the border of Stuyvesant Town and Kips Bay. This Starbucks  can’t be more than a few weeks old, and its size, design, decor, seating and overall newness really do make for a perfect Starbucks in the city.

My favorite attribute has to be the chain screen panels that separate the seating area from the hall and the bar. But other great features include the hanging lighting, the wood paneled walls and the hanging pictures. And the closest thing to a flaw this Starbucks has is its location. This area on 1st ave is at least 10 blocks from everything and a long walk to public transportation that’s not a bus. Fortunately there is a Citi Bike just out front. How do you think I got here?

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NYC Starbucks: 100th & Columbus

18 Dec

100th and Columbus Starbucks

The Starbucks on the corner of 100th and Columbus belongs to the small NYC neighborhood of Manhattan Valley. Essentially, this is where the Upper West Side meets West Harlem. Broadway is to the west, a small shopping district is to the south, Central Park is one block east, and Harlem is just north. The neighborhood — which was once called the Bloomingdale District — got its name because this area is a geographical depression. From Columbus Ave, I can literally see the street slope down to the south and rise back up to the north.

The Starbucks is at the northern edge of a small shopping area that contrasts greatly with the towering apartment buildings just north of 100th street. But then again, that’s gentrification for you. This location is not too big and not too small. It’s just the right size Starbucks with an adequate amount of seating on one side of the L-shaped interior. You can choose to sit at a low bar and gaze out the window and watch the southbound traffic. Or if you’re lucky enough, you can grab a seat at the long sofa with attached tables and power outlets. Most likely though, the fluctuating crowd will determine your seat, and you’ll take whatever is open.

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