Jeff Robinson doesn’t care if the beans are artisanal, sustainably sourced, made in small batches.
“It seems a little over the top — in my opinion. It’s just coffee,” said the 25-year-old Indianapolis man.
Fortunately, none of the constantly moving, always smiling employees of the world’s newest and largest Starbucks Reserve Roastery was within earshot when Robinson uttered those blasphemous words Friday morning.
In any event, Robinson’s voice was little more than a murmur amid the oohing and ahhing of hundreds of Starbucks fanatics who poured into the glittering Michigan Avenue coffee palace on opening day. The line to get into the former Crate & Barrel store began forming about 5 a.m. Hundreds huddled in the sub-freezing temperatures in a line that snaked around the corner to the Conrad Hotel on East Erie Street.
Elizabeth Stoler, 39, and her mother, Andrea Stoler, 70, drove in on Thursday from Detroit.
“We just love Starbucks. We’re there every other day,” Andrea Stoler said. “We’ve been gold card members for 10 years.”
When the doors opened, at 9 a.m. precisely, Jennifer Grahovac, strolled wide-eyed about the five-story store, making a video for her 16-year-old daughter, who was at school back in Northwest Indiana.
“It’s amazing. It’s like nothing you’ve seen before. It’s like your regular Starbucks on steroids. It’s the Willy Wonka of coffee,” said Grahovac, 46.
Comparisons to the fictional chocolate factory were frequent, which perhaps had something to do with the pipes snaking across the ceiling shuttling coffee beans from one place to another or the dozens or glistening pastries, sandwiches — not to mention the seemingly endless coffee offerings.
David Meade flew in from Cincinnati for the event. His sister joined him from California; his brother from Florida. They planned to spend most of their weekend together in the 35,000-square-foot store.
Unlike Jeff Robinson, Meade didn’t consider the roastery “over the top.”
“It’s a symbol of the class, the quality and the perfection they go through to make good coffee,” said Meade, 59.
Two hours after the store opened, Robinson had the weary look of someone winding up a marathon Christmas shopping expedition. He accompanied his wife, Gabby, who is a big Starbucks fan.
“She didn’t want to come alone — and I’m the husband,” said Robinson, who tended to the couple’s 4-year-old son while his wife shopped.
Robinson likes coffee — to a point.
“As long as there is sugar and cream in it, I don’t care,” he said.
- Customers lined up beginning at 5 a.m. outside the Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Michigan Avenue. Pat Nabong/For the Sun-Times
- Shauna McKenzie-Lee, managing director of the roastery, welcomes customers to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery on opening day Friday. Pat Nabong/For the Sun-Times
- Customers lined up for coffee drinks and pastries Friday at Starbucks Reserve Roastery. Pat Nabong/For the Sun-Times
- Customers waited in long lines on opening day at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Chicago. Pat Nabong/For the Sun-Times
- Starbucks staff serve customers on opening day of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Chicago. Pat Nabong/For the Sun-Times