Starbucks Coffee Company Timeline

Posted on January 25, 2015

From their first location in 1971 in Seattle to their status as the world’s most recognized coffee shop, Starbucks Coffee Company has come a long way in the past few decades.

The first Starbucks, called Starbucks Coffee, Tea, and Spice is opened across from Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington. The three founders – English teacher Jerry Baldwin, history teacher Zev Siegel, and writer Gordon Bowker, derived the store’s name from a Moby Dick character, Starbuck. The first stores do not sell beverages. They sell retail coffee beans.

A second Starbucks store is opened in Seattle.

The first store moves to a new location in Pike Place market, where it remains to this day.

Early 1980s
Zev Siegel leaves the company. Jerry Baldwin takes over management of the company and functions as CEO. Gordon Bowker remains involved as a co-owner but other projects take up most of his time, including the launch of his new microbrewery, The Redhook Ale Brewery.

Sept. 1982
Howard Schultz joins the company, taking charge of marketing and overseeing the retail stores.

Starbucks acquires the five stores in San Francisco’s Peet’s Coffee and Tea chain. During this period, Schultz makes several attempts to convince the original owners to start selling coffee beverages but they prefer to keep the focus on retail coffee products.

April 1984
Starbucks opens its fifth store, the first one in downtown Seattle. Schultz finally convinces the owners to test an espresso bar, making this Starbucks the first to sell coffee beverages. It becomes a huge success.

Late 1984
The Starbucks founders are still resistant to installing espresso bars in other Starbucks locations and Schultz becomes increasingly frustrated. He has visited the espresso bars of Milan, Italy and has a vision of bringing Italian-style espresso bars to America.

Late 1985
Schultz leaves Starbucks and starts the Il Giornale Coffee Company.

Jan. 1986
Schultz raises enough seed money to open several Il Giornale coffee houses. Starbucks founders Baldwin and Bowker support his new endeavor and invest money in the new company.

April 1986
The first Il Giornale store opens.

March 1987
Baldwin and Bowker decide to sell the Starbucks Coffee Company, with Baldwin keeping the Peet’s segment of the company.

Aug. 1987
Schultz acquires Starbucks and rebrands all of his Il Giornale coffee houses with the Starbucks name.

Starbucks opens locations in Vancouver, British Columbia and Chicago, Illinois.

Starbucks goes public with its initial public stock offering. At this time it has 165 outlets.

The first Starbucks opens outside of North America in Tokyo, Japan.

Starbucks drive-through locations are introduced.

Sept. 1997
Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz publishes a book called Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time.

1998 is launched.

The first Starbucks in Beijing, China is opened.

Starbucks sues San Francisco cartoonist Kieron Dwyer for copyright and trademark infringement after she creates a parody of the company’s trademark mermaid logo. The case is eventually settled.

April 2003
Starbucks purchases Seattle’s Best Coffee and Torrefazione Italia from AFC Enterprises and turns them all into Starbucks outlets.

May 2003
By this time, Starbucks has more than 6,400 outlets worldwide.

May 17, 2004
Starbucks baristas at the 36th and Madison store in Manhattan organize the first Starbucks barista union. They claim that the starting wage of $7.75 per hour is not a living wage in New York City and that the company does not guarantee a minimum number of hours.

July 22, 2004
The Retail Workers’ Union IU/660 files an unfair labor practice suit against Starbucks, alleging the company threatened wage cuts and bribed employees in order to influence the results of the barista’s union vote.

Oct. 4, 2004
XM Satellite Radio and Starbucks Coffee Company announce the debut of the Starbucks “Hear Music” channel on XM Radio. The station will feature 24 hour music programming featuring an “ever-changing mix of the best new music and essential recordings from all kinds of genres.”

Aug. 2005
After Starbucks prints a quote from Armistead Maupin on its cups as part of their “The Way I See It” promotion, the conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America protests. The quote reads: “My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don’t make that mistake yourself. Life’s too damn short.”

Sept. 8, 2005
Starbucks announces plans to donate funds and supplies to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. Plans include monetary donations over $5 million as well as donations of coffee, water, and tea products.

Oct. 21, 2005
ABC’s 20/20 airs the results of an investigation into coffee outlets serving regular coffee when decaf is ordered. One Starbucks outlet is found to be serving decaf loaded with caffeine. A Starbucks spokeswoman says: “in two samples taken by 20/20, the caffeine content was consistent with regular, not decaffeinated, coffee … We believe this error to be an isolated incident and an unfortunate occurrence that we take seriously. We have sent information to our stores to re-emphasize our operating procedures.”

The company creates Starbucks Entertainment and it is one of the producers on the film Akeelah and the Bee.

March 2008
A California court orders the company to pay $100 million in back tips to baristas who claimed that shift-supervisors were allowed to keep a portion of their tips, a violation of state labor laws. Similar lawsuits are filed in Massachusetts and Minnesota.

Jan. 2012
A Starbucks exec says that Starbucks supports the legalization of same sex marriage. As a result, the National Organization for Marriage calls for a boycott of the company and its stock. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz responds to the controversy: “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”

Oct. 2012
Reuters does an investigation and finds that Starbucks only paid £8.6 million in corporate taxes in the United Kingdom over 14 year allegedly by charging high licensing fees to the UK Starbucks branches and being able to declare a loss as a result.

Fortune magazine names Starbucks one of the top companies to work for.

June 2014
The European Commission launches an investigation into the company’s tax practices in the Netherlands, along with several other international corporations.

March 19, 2014
The company announces that they are teaming up with Oprah Winfrey to create Teavana® Oprah Chai tea.

March 30, 2014
Total stores worldwide as of this date: 20,519.