Starbucks recently opened a new store in New Orleans.

The shop is in the city's busy French Quarter, where it will play host to tourists and locals alike.

It also belongs to the company's growing portfolio of hyper-local shops.

In this case, the design team imagined the space as an early 1900s-era merchant shop.

Andrew Bello, a design director for Starbucks, says they were inspired by the city's history as an import and export shipping port. “There was a time [in the early 1900s] when it was the largest coffee importer in the area.”

To bring that to life, they built floor-to-ceiling shelves behind the counter.

Back then, Bello says, “those shelves would be filled with boxes and bags and herbs and spices--and coffee.” Today, of course, they’re stacked with bags of Starbucks coffee.

For the exterior, the team preserved some original architectural details and used wrought iron, a material found on facades and balconies throughout the French Quarter.

A mix of local and Atlanta-based artists created a mural, wrought iron chandeliers, and a hanging mobile of brass jazz instruments.

Other details, like the lettering on the bathroom door, were handcrafted.

The idea is to give patrons a novel Starbucks experience. “Hopefully customers discover something new when they return to the store,” Bello says.

Co.Design

Starbucks Channels Old-World Mysticism In New Big Easy Store

The coffee company evokes early 1900s merchant culture for its latest outpost in New Orleans's French Quarter.

Starbucks has opened a new store in New Orleans that's designed to channel the mystical feel of the city itself. Evocative of an early 1900s apothecary, the store is latest in Starbucks's portfolio of hyper-local shops aimed at being part of a neighborhood's culture, rather than disturbing it.

“We discovered New Orleans’s history as an import-export shipping port,” says Andrew Bello, a design director for Starbucks. “There was a time [in the early 1900s] when it was the largest coffee importer in the area.” Bello and his team ran with their imaginations, designing the space as if it were the home and store of an old-timey merchant. Floor to ceiling shelves sit behind the register. Back then, Bello says, “those shelves would be filled with boxes and bags and herbs and spices--and coffee.” Today, of course, they’re stacked with bags of Starbucks coffee.

A mix of local and Atlanta-based artists created a mural, wrought iron chandeliers, and a hanging mobile of brass jazz instruments. The details were deliberately handcrafted--right down to the lettering on the bathroom door--in part because the new outpost belongs to a growing portfolio of stores that have what Bello and Starbucks designers call, “local relevance.”

The philosophy behind “local relevance” is that a trip to Starbucks can be a more faceted experience than just getting a reliable cup of coffee. Even simple actions like a customer posting a picture of the store to Instagram, or actually telling a friend about a visit to Starbucks, are measurements of this. “Hopefully customers discover something new when they return to the store,” he says.

Put differently: Starbucks isn’t interested in being the McDonald’s of coffee.

Instead, Bello wants to take advantage of the high-traffic, high-profile location. “Everyone that goes to New Orleans is going to walk down that street. It bifurcates two parts of the city: the downtown business district, and the gentrifying warehouse district.” The goal? Let tourists be on vacation, and make locals feel at home, all in one place.

[Photos by Matthew Glac for Starbucks]

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12 Comments

  • kiranator

    So — where exactly is this? Street address? I'm going to NOLA soon and would love to check it out.

  • Laura W

    Next to the Starbucks in Breckenridge Colorado - built in an old house - this is the kind of coffeehouse I want to be in.

  • Julia Burgi

    in Barcelona, we have one filled with Modernista tiles (and there´s a Gaudí-themed McDonald´s too!)... unfortunately, the coffee tastes the same.

  • Rita Kovtun

    Except that McDonald's restaurants around the world are personalized to fit the country they're in, including different looks and different menus.....

  • Malcom Horvath

    I have to agree what a crafted visual. But decor is decor and wrought iron or fieldstone they should be authentic and fit. Too bad some of the energy created on the street and balconies could not have been translated into a wrought iron seating balcony. But, if beignets show up all can be forgiven.

  • Lily Niu

    Beautiful design, but I think it would have been better if they provided a sense of intimacy and privacy in their seating arrangement and floor space. People go to coffee shops to relax, chat, work, and just be in their own world. It's really a person's 3rd home. I think the ability to give consumers that kind of comfortable environment where they can drown out those around them is something that has yet to be done by many coffee shop franchises. Building the ultimate coffee shop and experience is definitely something I want to do in the future.

  • David Daniels

    Grateful to be the Sr. Designer on this extremely fun project and I'm proud to be a Starbucks Partner! Thanks Fast Company!!!

  • Ron Kerns

    as a graphic designer, I say KUDOS! very cool.....i spend plenty of time in Starbucks working (beats being stuck in the office at home!)....my wife is a NOLA native...will have to go check this store out...
    Exactly where is this store located?

  • Serge Ghio

    Beautiful! I'm heading down to New Orleans for the holidays and I'm looking forward to seeing this store in person.

  • Seamus

    If I opened a coffee shop, that's what I would want it to look and feel like...maybe some local art on the walls too...very nice for monster corp. to have this insight and vision...

  • Greg English

    Makes me want to go back to New Orleans just to see this shop! As if I really needed another excuse!