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Starbucks’s Disneyland Store Is Surprisingly Classy

Starbucks and Disney have partnered to bring the Seattle coffee chain onto Disney’s worldwide properties. Sorry kids, no teacup rides here.

For its new Disneyland outpost, Starbucks had every opportunity to trot out gimmicks. Just imagine: a store façade made to look like a castle, teacups instead of coffee cups, and Mickey as your barista.

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Starbucks’s designers skipped the tricks, opting instead to cater to a more mature clientele: parents who need a break. “We’re in California, and were inspired by that California patio and al fresco dining experience,” says Bill Sleeth, a Starbucks VP of design. “What we were really trying to create was a respite for out customers. It’s shaded, it’s more serene.”


The Downtown Disney shop is the first of four planned Starbucks stores slated to open at Disney properties, and it’s big, with about 100 seats outside. The site is toward the back of the California Grand Hotel, which was built in the style of a quintessentially Californian Craftsman bungalow.

Sleeth and his team wanted the new shop’s look to fit within the context of that style, without directly aping it. They drafted more than 50 designs for the store, and decided to create a Starbucks that channeled the work of mid-century designers like Joseph Eichler, Rudolph Schindler, and Richard Neutra, whose one-story, poolside houses from that era are prominent in California. In particular, the floor-to-ceiling glass walls are evocative of these architects’ sunny residential designs. “The large expanse of glass lets the indoor flow into the outdoor,” Sleeth tells Co.Design. “The strong horizontal planes and the use of concrete, that was driven more from that time period.”


The designers are also wove in some interactive displays, like a screen that turns your reflection in a chalkboard drawing (presumably for the already-bored kids). They’re also taking a leaf from Disney’s book, by turning Starbucks’s story into an entertaining narrative: footage from Starbucks coffee farms in Costa Rica will be projected, mural-like, on one wall.

“We didn’t want an experience where you’re pumping high-def video in the store, so it’s almost like an animated painting,” Sleeth says. “It’s framed and filtered to look almost like a painting, and is meant to be this broad overview from the planting of the seed to the growing of the plants and roasting of the beans and making of the beverage.”

About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.

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