Campus Only Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
© 2012 Angelica M. Quicksey
Starbucks' success following Howard Schultz's purchase of the company in 1987 was largely the product of a particular historical moment, one rooted in the social and economic changes that manifested themselves in the built environment of the American metropolis from the 1970's to the present. Most contemporary observers saw Starbucks as a symbol of these changes – particularly those that fell under the complicated heading of gentrification – rather than recognizing it as an agent of change.
This thesis reveals the development of Starbucks' character and expansion model from its humble beginnings in 1971. It offers an overview of the various theories of gentrification and neighborhood change, relating them to Seattle, and placing Starbucks within this narrative. Chapter three examines Starbucks as a commodity, a place, and a neighbor. As a commodity, the history and preparation of specialty coffee made it a de facto consumption choice for the rich, famous, and educated. Starbucks appropriated, packaged and marketed the drink's sophisticated characteristics toward its own ends. Meanwhile, Starbucks' claims of community centered on its perception and presentation as a "third place" – the public place of a new age. Finally, as a neighbor, Starbucks has been courted and rejected by communities, developers, and city governments seeking or spurning the changes – increased foot traffic, wealthier clientele, etc. – that often accompany the coffee giant's arrival to a neighborhood. Lastly, this thesis focuses on metropolitan areas, perhaps the most tangible places to think about capitalism and capitalist enterprises, with an emphasis on Seattle, Starbucks' native city.
Quicksey, Angelica M., "Coffee, Culture, and Capital in America: Starbucks and the Commoditization of Urban Space" (2012). CMC Senior Theses. 473.
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