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World’s largest Starbucks to replace Crate & Barrel on Mag Mile

Starbucks Coffee Co. plans to open a Starbucks Reserve Roastery on the Mag Mile in 2019.

Starbucks Coffee Co. plans to open a Starbucks Reserve Roastery on the Mag Mile in 2019.

The theme park of coffee is coming to Chicago’s marquee shopping district in a move that a downtown alderman calls further proof of the “changing face” of retailing.

A four-story, 43,000-square-foot Starbucks Reserve and Roastery billed as the world’s largest Starbucks will replace the flagship Crate & Barrel store at 646 N. Michigan Ave.

The new store is expected to open in 2019. It will be the largest of three “interactive” stores where Starbucks coffee will be roasted, brewed and packaged. The first such concept store opened in December 2014 in Seattle, where Starbucks’ corporate headquarters is located.

The second Starbucks Roastery is scheduled to open next year in New York City.

According to the mayor’s office, the new store at Michigan and Erie will “bring coffee craft to life” by showcasing “multiple brewing methods, specialty Reserve beverages and mixology.”

“Chicago’s Magnificent Mile brings in millions of visitors from across this globe and is the perfect location for a world-class coffee destination,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

“This Starbucks Reserve Roastery will be an investment in Chicago and a strong addition to Michigan Avenue, where residents and visitors can enjoy incredible coffees from around the world in a remarkable environment.”

Howard Schultz, executive chairman of Starbucks, said Chicago is a “very special city for me” because it’s the city where the first Starbucks to be built outside of Seattle opened nearly 30 years ago.

“At the time, it was a true test for Starbucks because the Chicago customer is so savvy and discerning about their coffee,” Schultz said in a statement.

“Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, so we took our time to find an incredible space to match the unprecedented coffee experience our premium Roastery will offer. To be located on one of the best-known retail streets in the world is a proud moment for all of us and we can’t wait to bring Chicago and the world a coffee experience worthy of their most premier real estate.”

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly said he’s “sad to see” Crate & Barrel leaving after a “good, long run” on Michigan Avenue.

But the decision by Starbucks to build an “experience store” in its place makes sense and underscores the changing face of retailing, he said.

“Not long ago, if you wanted to buy dishes at Crate & Barrel, you’d have to physically walk into the store to get them. Not anymore. You simply go online and click to order. The traditional retail box model will continue to decline over time,” Reilly wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“That doesn’t mean retail stores will become obsolete. They’re simply changing. Experience stores are less about shopping and more about allowing consumers to interact with products, try them on or out, or to ask questions about them. Then, most consumers leave and order the products online.”

Reilly noted that “Verizon, AT&T, Apple and others” are seeing great success with the experience store model on Michigan Avenue. It makes “perfect sense” for Starbucks to join the parade, he said.

“It is, in effect, a massive coffee ‘experience’ store — that doesn’t just sell coffee, it invites customers to participate,” Reilly said.

“I’m not at all surprised that a major brand like Starbucks would want to open their experience store at this marquee location on Michigan Avenue, and I’m sure they’ll be very successful on that corner.”

John Chikow, president and CEO of the Magnificent Mile Association, predicted that Chicago’s Starbucks Roastery would fast become a tourist attraction.

He said there is no end to the public’s fascination with coffee-making.

“Why is the craft beer and distillery industry growing by leaps and bounds? People are looking for new twists and opportunities to expand their horizons on things they’ve always known,” Chikow said Wednesday.

“I look at what’s happening with Starbucks on the Mile, and what’s happening with Apple on the Mile and I think these are gonna be two of the most photographed retail locations in the world. This is gonna be so significant for Magnificent Mile cache.”

When Crate & Barrel founder Gordon Segal first built the flagship store at 646 N. Michigan, Chikow noted there was an “interesting response to the appropriateness” of the glass building on Michigan Avenue.

“Now, here we are again with a whole new concept. It’s very exciting,” he said.

The glitzy Starbucks Roastery should fit in nicely with the futuristic and translucent Apple Store under construction overlooking the Chicago River. That store will have a glass box entrance on Pioneer Court.

Apple has estimated up to 4,000 people each day will walk down a grand staircase at 401 N. Michigan Ave. — or take an elevator, if need be — to that 20,000-square-foot store, adjacent to the riverwalk.

This rendering shows the view from across the Chicago River of a new Apple Store now under construction. | Provided