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How did a single shop grow into one of the biggest chains in the world?

In 51 years, Starbucks has grown from 1 shop in Seattle to 30,000 shops all over the globe

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Interim CEO Howard Schultz and incoming CEO Laxman Narasimhan hug during Starbucks Investor Day 2022.

Interim CEO Howard Schultz, left, and incoming CEO Laxman Narasimhan hug during Starbucks Investor Day 2022, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Seattle.

Stephen Brashear, Associated Press

No matter what major city you may visit, there’s most likely a Starbucks around.

Its holiday coffees, hot chocolates and more are staples for millions of customers during the busy holiday season. But how exactly did Starbucks gain its signature spot as one of the leading beverage brands in the world?

Here’s what we found.

How did Starbucks begin?

Starbucks’ website says that its name “was inspired by the classic tale, ‘Moby-Dick,’ evoking the seafaring tradition of the early coffee traders,” and its first shop opened in 1971 in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

As people from all around the nation would frequent this coffee shop in Seattle, a New Yorker, Howard Schultz, became a fan and joined the company in 1982. After traveling to Milan, Schultz wanted the Starbucks dream to expand beyond simple coffee — he wanted it to be a specialty drink brand.

The founders of Starbucks, Jerry Baldwin and Gordon Bowker, were not on board with the idea and wanted to keep Starbucks as a roasting company and not a restaurant, according to Slate.

Schultz ended up quitting and starting a different drink brand named II Giornale. Baldwin and Bowker later decided to sell Starbucks and, after Schultz gained enough capital to purchase the company back, he became the CEO of Starbucks in 1987.

How did Starbucks expand its brand?

Some of the ways the company expanded its brand was by first giving customers free samples of the drinks and traveling around the world to learn how different cultures make their coffees and teas, according to Consumer Search.

CNBC reported that the company was able to take that single store in Seattle to a “30,000 cafe international coffee power house” in its 51-year history.

Not only has the company expanded its drink and food selection but also developed heavily sought after merchandise, such as reusable cups.

A Starbucks cup collector, Charsima Starke, explained to Pure Wow blog that “they’re cute and functional.”

In 1997, Schultz wrote a book, “Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time,” detailing his relentless pursuit of expanding Starbucks into what it is today.

How big is Starbucks today?

Starbucks went from that one shop in Seattle back in 1971 all the way to 35,711 stores worldwide with 15,873 stores residing within the U.S., according to Statista.

StarbMag reported that the average income 2021 income Starbucks makes in a day was about $3,800 per company-owned store.

In 2022, Starbucks is believed to have about 100 million customers worldwide.

Pushback against Starbucks

NPR reported that more than 300 stores have had union elections this year, when no stores had a union in 2021. However, less than 3% of the 9,000 company-operated Starbucks shops in the U.S. have unionized and the number of stores that want to be unionized have decreased throughout 2022.

The Deseret News reported that the first Starbucks to unionize in Utah was in Cottonwood Heights in June, by an 11-6 vote.

In a letter written in August, Starbucks accused the National Labor Relations Board of conspiring with Starbucks union employees to influence elections, according to Bloomberg Law.

Kayla Blado, an NLRB spokesperson, said that the board had “well established processes” for challenging elections.

“The regional staff — and, ultimately, the board — will carefully and objectively consider any challenges raised through these established channels,” Blado said.

Reuters reported that Workers United said that Starbucks’ letter to the NLRB is the “latest attempt to manipulate the legal process for their own means and prevent workers from exercising their fundamental right to organize.”

The New York Times reported that the letter from the Starbucks corporation said, “Starbucks respects the rights of its partners to decide for themselves whether they wish to be represented by a union.”

The letter continues, “But those rights can only be properly exercised — and realized — through a neutral, honest process.”

The pushback against Starbucks still continues, as a few union strikes took place over the weekend at different Starbucks locations around the country, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“We’re on strike right now ... demanding it stop closing union stores, they reopen the stores they have closed, and (stop) their union-busting campaign against us,” Tyler Keeling, a union organizer for the Lakewood Starbucks in California, said.

Starbucks is constantly evolving

The Associated Press reported that the company is planning to open 2,000 new stores by 2025 and increase the amount of shops with drive-thru windows, as 50% of Starbucks’ U.S. sales are made at drive-thru locations.

“It’s clear that our physical stores have to change. Our physical stores were built for a different era,” Starbucks’ chief operating officer, John Culver, said.

AP reported that Culver also said that the brand is investing in newer drink technology, since 75% of Starbucks’ drink orders are customizable cold drinks.

Starbucks’ kitchens were originally designed to make simple hot drinks, so the company has designed and debuted a new work station to be put in stores, according to the AP.