Archive | October, 2013

NYC Starbucks: Maiden & Pearl

15 Oct

Maiden and Pearl Starbucks

Today I intended to pay a visit to the Starbucks located within the New York Stock Exchange. Unfortunately, when I arrived on Wall Street, something dawned on me that I should have probably suspected long ago… they don’t just let anyone in the NYSE. Sure enough, I discovered that the entire building is fenced off and can be accessed only through security gates. So obviously, I’m going to have to think this one through and plan how I will be able to infiltrate the NYSE.

In the meantime, I took a short walk over to the Starbucks on the corner of Maiden Lane and Pearl Street. I must admit I love the combination of these street names. Together they almost sound like the title of a fairytale: The Maiden and the Pearl. I’d read it!

Sadly, this Starbucks is far from a fairytale and is more messy than magical. It’s small, crowded, and a helpless victim to the hundreds of business men and women currently suffering from that 2:30 feeling. In-fact, this Starbucks only saving grace is the unique decor — specifically the hanging wall photo pictured above. 

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NYC Starbucks: 35th & 5th

14 Oct

35th and 5th Starbucks

Today I’m drinking a tall iced coffee at the Midtown Starbucks on 35th & 5th Avenue. I can’t remember the last time I’ve ordered anything smaller than a grande. Then the other day I realized something; I hardly ever finish my drinks. If I get a venti I drink three-fourths of it. If I order a grande, I only drink most of it. So what difference does 4 ounces make? About 44 cents.

This Starbucks is one of those railroad stores — long and narrow. In fact, it’s so long it almost looks like a hallway. Even the tables and barista bar are pushed off to the side to make room for the through-traffic — which there is a lot of. Want to guess what’s at the end of the hall? That’s right, the single restroom.

At least it’s big enough to handle the massive crowd the comes through it, and being just one block north of all the 34th street retail shops, most guests come with 2-3 enormous shopping bags swinging at their sides. It’s enough to make most New Yorkers run the other way.

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NYC Starbucks: 96th & Lexington

13 Oct

96th and Lexington Starbucks

I’m on fire.

No not literally. I’ve just been on a roll with this blog lately. Not only have I visited at least 1 Starbucks every day in October, but this will be my second for the day. Half of the reason for this increase in blogging is due to my awareness of the year’s impending demise. The other half is simply an increase in dedication to the cause. As the year slips away and the amount of undiscovered Starbucks grows smaller and smaller, I’m feeling this heightened curiosity toward each untouched Starbucks. After visiting over 150 locations in New York, have I still not discovered the very best one? Or the very worst one? And maybe there’s a small neighborhood I’ve yet to traipse through that will draw me in the way so many of the others have. And it’s this curiosity that’s making it easier and easier to convince myself to make time to blog each day.

Specifically, this Starbucks on 96th & Lexington intrigued me because of its close proximity with the Starbucks I wrote about earlier today. Both are on the border of Harlem and the Upper East Side. However, the Starbucks on 96th & Madison is on the south side (Upper East Side), while this one is on the north side (Harlem). Specifically this one belongs to the neighborhood known as Spanish Harlem — or SpaHa. So I wanted to know if there was a detectible distinction between these two close Starbucks in two very different neighborhoods.

The short answer: a little.

The Madison Starbucks was small, crowded, and filled with a crowd of tourists and keep-to-yourself patrons. This Starbucks is large, still crowded, and filled with a much more social crowd. A father sits talking with his son. Three teenagers sit at the communal table and angst all over each other. And a couple just walked out after sharing what I’m assuming was a latte — I’m guessing Pumpkin Spice.

Other features of this Starbucks include plenty of seating, jazz music and an authentic exposed-brick wall. It’s crowded even late at night, and the crowd doesn’t seem to be waning at all. Also, the locals have clearly pegged this Starbucks as a convenient bathroom stop to and from the 6-train.

So in conclusion, although this Starbucks is just on the other side of 96th street, it does indeed have more Harlem characteristics than the Madison location of the Upper East Side.

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NYC Starbucks: 96th & Madison

13 Oct

96th and Madison Starbucks

The lines between most Manhattan neighborhoods often blur and lack a clear distinction. You can walk from Kips Bay to Murray Hill to the Upper East Side and not really tell when one neighborhood ends and another begins. Even the Internet has mixed views on the borders of some neighborhoods. Some argue Midtown stops at 34th street; others say it extends down to 14th. And some claim that Alphabet City no longer exists and refer to it as strictly the Lower East Side.

However, there is one neighborhood distinction that is almost night and day; below 96th street is the Upper East Side and above is Harlem. And the Starbucks on the corner of 96th and Madison is right on the border of these two very different neighborhoods.

As I walked north across 96th street, I was not expecting the neighborhood shift to be so perceptible. But literally, I knew I was in Harlem without needing to look it up on a map. And no, I’m not talking about differences in race, class, or any of that stereotypical bull. I knew because of the gentrification. Below 96th on Madison Avenue were nothing but independently owned specialty shops, spas, and convenient stores. Once north of 96th, the first three stores I saw were Dunkin Donuts, Subway and Verizon. Case closed.

The Starbucks is on the south corner, so it technically belongs to the Upper East Side. But it lacks the size and space of most UES locations, and brings in a more touristy crowd since it is so close to Central Park. The tourists come and go; however, it appears this is also a favored spot for locals to come and hang out for awhile. There’s lots of headsets and laptops taking up the limited seating this Starbucks has to offer… but who am I to judge?

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NYC Starbucks: Front & Wall

12 Oct

Front and Wall Starbucks

It’s finally here. I’m officially typing this blog using Google Wifi at the new Starbucks on Front & Wall Street. At first I thought this Starbucks was having WiFi issues, then I kept searching for available networks until ‘Google Starbucks’ showed up. I connected with ease and began testing the bandwidth to see how it compared to the old AT&T WiFi. So far, I’m impressed.

According to one of the baristas, this Starbucks has only been open for about a month. It still has that new store glow. And I have a feeling this Starbucks is just reopening after suffereing damage from Hurricane Sandy. I can literally see the water of the East River from outside this Starbucks door, and I can easily imagine the flood waters putting this location out of service for quite some time.

But maybe some downtime did this Starbucks well. Now it’s back, and I’m assuming it’s never looked better. The lighting and decor is crisp. There’s silver and grey accents all around, and when combined with the metal tables and wooden floorboards it creates an interesting and modern aesthetic. It has plenty of seating and still provides enough room to keep the place from feeling cramped.

This new Starbucks certainly isn’t helping me finish this blog by the year’s end, but it is a beautiful addition to the NYC Starbucks family.

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NYC Starbucks: 49th & Madison

11 Oct

49th and Madison Starbucks

The Starbucks on 49th & Madison has a consistent crowd of people coming, going, using the restroom, and sitting a while. For a Starbucks in Midtown, Manhattan its size is pretty impressive. Unfortunately, the L-shaped barista bar takes up a lot of the space and the seating is only lining the walls.

It’s location on Madison Avenue brings in a mix of tourists and business people. There’s actually an interview of some sort being conducted at the table next to me. Side note: I think if a potential employer were to ask me to meet at a Starbucks for an interview I would be very excited, and I’d probably ace the interview since I’d be in my natural element as opposed to a stuffy office.

Also, noteworthy. So far in the month of October, I’ve been able to visit and blog about a new Starbucks each and every day. I’m 11 for 11 and hoping to keep this momentum up. With roughly 80 days left in 2013, I’ve got a ton more iced coffees to drink before my mission is complete.

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Reflection: Starbucks Asks Americans to Come Together

11 Oct

ComeTogether

I woke up this morning to a few interesting emails. The first was from Starbucks. Anyone subscribed to receive their promotions and updates also woke up to an email somewhat out of the norm. Starting today, Starbucks has placed paper petitions at all of their stores across the country and is asking its patrons to send a message to lawmakers. The message? In short… get it together and do what’s right for this country (see above for details).

The second interesting email was from a CNBC reporter asking for a quick interview on the petition and Starbucks’ recent delve into politics. Obviously, I had missed a lot in the hours between midnight and 8am.

So, I splashed some water on my face and headed down to the nearest Starbucks to see what exactly was going on. While there, not only did I sign the petition, but I also was able to successfully Pay-It-Forward and buy the woman in line behind me her morning coffee. Unlike yesterday’s experience at the Starbucks on 45th & Park, these baristas new exactly what I was talking about and easily rang me up for the both of us. I knew it could work!

Soon after, I was on the phone talking to the CNBC reporter about Howard Schultz’s recent statements and Starbucks’ political involvement over the past few weeks. You can read the full NBC News article here.

All in all, I’m really proud of Starbucks. Some people may see this as a PR stunt, but I see it more as a powerful and widely-known American company voicing its concern for the American people and the economy. Businesses usually go through lobbyists to get what they want from the government, but Starbucks is going straight to the people. Will it be affective? Is Starbucks going to end this government shutdown and keep the economy in good shape before we default? No, probably not.

But they’re the first company to try, and for that I’m proud to call myself a loyal Starbucks patron.

NYC Starbucks: 45th & Park

10 Oct

45th and Park Starbucks

I think when Howard Schultz and Starbucks Corporate came up with the idea of paying it forward (#payitforward) at its many stores across the nation they left some kinks in the chain. And they simply didn’t account for what a New York City Starbucks environment is really like. Today alone, I attempted and failed, not once, but twice at paying it forward — or backward, really –at two different Starbucks.

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about above, here’s a quick overview. This Monday, Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz released a letter that urged other successful business CEOs to put the pressure on their representatives and end this government shutdown. Did you know Schultz is a Democrat? How rare for such a successful CEO! Anyway… Then Wednesday, Starbucks released information on a three-day promotion in an email stating: “Pay it forward. Get a free coffee.” The concept is simple: Come into Starbucks between Oct 9-11, buy someone else their favorite drink (preferably a stranger), and you receive a complimentary tall coffee for your civility. Simple enough, right?

When I first heard of this promotion, I thought it was the coolest thing. I love the idea of Starbucks attempting to start a small movement of generosity while our government is currently shutdown due to hostility and greed. But when you put the concept into practice, it doesn’t seem to work as well as it was intended.

So my first attempt to pay it forward this morning was thwarted by the simple fact that there was a line in the Union Square Starbucks that was out the door and I was pinched for time. Therefore, no Starbucks for me or any stranger this morning.

My second attempt was at the Starbucks just outside of the MetLife Building on 45th & Park. I walked into this very small Starbucks and ordered my usual grande iced coffee and waited for someone else to come in. Then a gentleman came in by himself while I lingered at the register. When the barista turned his attention to his new customer, I intercepted and told him that I wanted to “pay it forward” and buy this gentleman’s drink. The barista looked confused, so I went on. Aren’t you guys running a promotion to buy someone else a drink? Still — he looked confused, and the gentleman whose drink I was attempting to buy looked even more confused. So the barista asked one of his partners who looked to be the manager on duty. Still — this man looked confused.

The presumed manager went on to tell me that some people have been coming in over the past few days expecting some sort of buy-one-get-one, and he knew nothing about this Pay it Forward promotion. So in the end, the gentlemen whose drink I attempted to buy ended up ordering and paying for 11 dollars worth of food and drinks on his own while I questioned the staff that had no answers for me.

Now, I’m wondering how Starbucks spread the word of this promotion internally? And has anyone had a successful #payitforward experience yet? In New York City? I guess I’ll attempt once more tomorrow.

See below for the details on the MetLife Starbucks on 45th & Park.

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NYC Starbucks: 56th & 6 1/2

9 Oct

56th and 6 1:2 Starbucks

Today I had a Starbucks first in the location on 56th street between 6th and 7th avenue: a barista and customer got in a screaming match that almost escalated into a confrontation.

I don’t want to pick a side here, but honestly, I could tell this particular set of baristas were off from the get-go. They hardly talked to me as I ordered my drink and passed it on to me without saying “Here ya go” or “Have a good day.” 

Then when a woman claimed to have handed them a 20 and received change for a 10 (figures it’d be over money), the entire store had to witness the altercation. The line was backed up. The other baristas were clearly distracted. And it was a mess all around. In the end the woman received her appropriate change, but her husband insisted on an apology, which caused the scene to escalator even further. The couple left shouting and angry. The barista was left wanting to go home…

All in all, I think it comes down to people being employed at a job they don’t like. I saw it dozens of times in the eyes of the cashiers I supervised when I worked at the Target in Brooklyn. I even had one girl walk around her cash register and put her face up to a guest in an attempt to fight her. What I saw in these baristas was the same thing: disinterest and disregard.

I can still hear them arguing in the back of the store right now…

So much for the #payitforward program Starbucks tried to initiate today. Which — btw — I tried to do but of course no body was in line with my when I walked in. Better luck tomorrow!

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NYC Starbucks: 50th & 6th (Rockefeller Center)

8 Oct

50th and 6th Starbucks

I knew there was a Starbucks somewhere near the corner of 50th and Sixth Avenue. But as I paced back and forth, that familiar green siren was no where to be found. Finally, I conceded and asked the door guard at The Radio City Music Hall for help.

“Is there a Starbucks around here?” (A redundant question, I know.)

“Yea — In the subway.”

“Huh?”

Then I literally saw a woman emerge from the Rockefeller subway terminal with a Starbucks cup in her hand. Possibly a coincidence? Obviously, I was in for an adventure.

As I went underground at the corner of 50th & Sixth, I was not greeted with that usual smell of stagnant water and decaying rat that I’ve grown to associate with New York’s subway system. As I continued walking I realized this was more than just a subway terminal… it was a concourse full of food and shopping options underneath Rockefeller Center. Cheers to that!

The Starbucks was easy enough to locate, and I soon found myself inside, in a long line waiting for my usual grande iced coffee. Unlike some of the other food shops in the concourse, the Starbucks is sectioned off by glass paneling, and it’s actually larger than your typical NYC Starbucks. So being underground means nothing, and even though most people came to grab a drink on the go, a lot of people also stayed to take advantage of the Starbucks’ several tables and seating options.

If you would have told me this morning that I would have an enjoyable experience inside a subway terminal Starbucks, I would have asked you to pinch me. Who knew?!

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