The Worst Starbucks In America

We’ve shown you the best. Now we’re showing you the worst.

Starbucks has some of the most beautiful stores in the world--architectural masterpieces that squeeze table service onto Swiss trains and 1,876 blocks of Dutch oak onto Amsterdam ceilings.

And then they have this drive-thru, walk-up location in L.A.’s Highland Park. With stucco walls, a jail-like ordering window, and five sad stools inside, it’s been dubbed The Most Depressing Starbucks In America. LAist says it could double for a Jack in the Box. And I think that’s an insult to the grotesque burger and 50-cent taco chain. This thing looks like a bomb shelter mated with a 1980s Burger King.

Jean Trinh/LAist

On Yelp, one person questions “why the handicap parking is farther from the shop, and the crosswalk is in front of the drive thru [where] people can easily get run over.” Several label it an “insult” to the community. One soul, as words fail him, simply draws a penis.

When reporting on Starbucks’s ambitions to make their 23,000 stores worldwide feel unique--which is obviously a hilarious concept in comparison--I asked Bill Sleeth, VP of design, why the Starbucks in my own neighborhood felt so lousy. It was cramped, noisy, and the people in line were always elbowing those in the seats. Sleeth made no qualms that the company was “opportunistic.” Often, the company claimed oddly shaped spaces, just to sneak their way into a particular block. As a result, you get stores that dedicate 80% of their real estate just to the line. Their doorways make strange sense with the layout. And nobody really wants to set up their laptop and work there. But it still provides lucrative caffeine to those on their morning commutes.

Jean Trinh/LAist

Of course, what’s so strange about this Highland Park Starbucks is that the build-out appears to be new construction rather than just a repurposed Taco Bell. In other words, it seemed architected for oppressiveness from the start. As one Yelper, who gave the store ⅘ stars, put it with shameless exactitude: “This location is unique in a sense that it's a walk-up window only with DRIVE THRU not a store location where you can hang out inside, which is smart because the area could have a lot of vagrants.”

Starbucks has acknowledged the fugliness in a statement released to ABC7. “We agree this store is not representative of this neighborhood, and are committed to taking specific actions that will address the concerns we've heard.”

See more here and here.

[Photos: Jean Trinh/LAist]

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6 Comments

  • wave2003

    Isn't Starbucks a franchiser, actively involved of the design and placement of their outlets? Sounds like they dropped the 'design for functionality ball'. On the other side of the fence, some coffee drinkers just want a cup of coffee, and walk-up and/or drive-up works for them. Getting run over for a cup of Joe because of poor layout (where were the building compliance folks?), is unforgivable, tho.

  • Nanushka Nanush

    If I had time to waste on a "drive thru" for a crappy cup of coffee in the morning... I would certainly rather make my own at home, and enjoy drinking it with my wife before leaving for work. Perhaps it is a European thing... But I always associate coffee with being with people, or with quietly enjoying my thoughts or reading. NOT with driving!

  • mmoi.mmud

    Drinking coffee or having breakfast outside is actually typically Americain. Most Europeans have espresso or black coffee at home before leaving to the office.

  • virgodesigner

    Awe-inspiring news as usual. Thanks for the useful insight.

    This reads like something out of the Onion. I'll make sure to not check FastCo for useful information. Thanks.

  • I look forward to a walk-up Starbucks in my neighborhood. This will be great for dog-walkers, parents with baby-strollers, and cyclists. No leaving the dogs outside or completely skipping Starbucks because of the dog. No more struggling to get strollers through the door.