Coffee Drama

Inspired By Starbucks

15th Avenue Coffee and Tea opens today on the hill. In case you missed the surrounding drama, here’s a recap.

By Kristin Cordova July 24, 2009

15th Ave Coffee And Tea, a day before the grand opening.

Call it what you want: Zombie Starbucks, Smith-bucks, Fauxbucks—but 15th Ave. Coffee & Tea opens today on Capitol Hill and by all accounts it is quite an attractive space.

And there are a lot of accounts. For anyone who missed out on all the media drama surrounding the story, here’s the juice:

It started back in June when Capitol Hill Seattle broke the story that something fishy was going on at the presumably pink-slipped Starbucks on 15th Ave E and E Thomas Street. CHS bloggers scooped more details, prompting the community blog to get a statement from Sbux Corporate about the store’s “renovation.”

Fast forward to July, when Seattle Weekly writer Maggie Savarino noticed striking parallels between the revamp and next-door neighbor, Linda Derschang-owned Smith after sneaking inside for a look-see.

Then things started really percolating (sorry, couldn’t resist). Seattle Times Sbux beat reporter Melissa Allison filled in the gaping holes, introducing us to 15th Ave. Coffee & Tea—a.k.a. the coffee shop formerly known as the “Zombie Starbucks,” per CHS—and locating other stylistically pilfered proprietors. (Psst…the Sbux spin-off will also sell wine and beer besides working to foster “community personality.”)

CHS had a bit of a moment.

But moving on. Paul Constant of The Stranger chipped in his two cents on SLOG. A bit late to the table (but who are we to talk?), reporter Sara Kiesler joined the fray, stirring the pot vigorously by intimating the possibility of a Linda-driven lawsuit. Derschang herself wrote a peeved email to Stranger reporter and friend Bethany Jean Clement, venting her frustration at the copycatting corp and eliciting an eruption of Slog blog comments. Click here for a thoughtful reflection from Seattle Coffee Works co-owner Sebastian Simsch (whose store was also the subject of Sbux reconnaissance).

Then Seattle Weekly followed up, adding a tidbit to the PI’s lawsuit angle. But once again, Melissa Allison of the Times was there to set the record straight: Linda D. never intended to sue Starbucks. (She swears! I talked to her yesterday!) And took off the gloves.

Final word from Derschang: “I felt like it got blown out of proportion. Their business is painted the same color as Smith. It’s not a big deal.”

Phew! Glad to have that out of the way.

Now that your curiosity is peaked, check out the Starbucks “re-imagining” at 15th Ave Coffee & Tea and decide what you think of the new incognito cafe.

And don’t forget to blog about it.

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