|This will be a follow-up fact finding “mission” dedicated to my readers that responded to my earlier blog on Starbuck's invasion of Italy|
It has been some time since I wrote about the Starbuck's corporate decision to invade Italy, first in Milano and later to other cities. Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks, had originally decided to stay away from competing with the hoard of coffee bars that Italians frequent daily. Times change, and placing a Starbucks near the Duomo in Milano will be a sort of trial balloon, fishing to see if the hard-core coffee drinking Italians will storm the doors of a Starbucks coffee shop, lining up like crazed prisoners making a food raid. Will they tolerate the long lines like the people of Moscow upon the opening of Moscow McDonalds? My take on this is that Italians are down to earth people, they never dream of one hand gripping a cup of exorbitantly priced java with the other hand holding a cell phone needing free wifi. Starbucks will be welcomed by the Milanese like a heavy dead wind and a greeting by the people, “come back when you can’t stay so long!”
As things go here in Italy, it has been a much slower than imagined process for the American company. In America what takes a few months, in Italy takes much longer. When I last wrote the official statement to the press was that the big splash would be in February. February is here and the big day has been slowed by the usual bureaucratic snafus we all find here in Italy.
(Go read my blog on obtaining a driver’s licence.) Now the grand opening date is rumored to be in September. Months of profit lost. I admit I am smiling. Poor Starbucks!
The young people here are asking questions about possible employment, but they find no answers. They need jobs, and here people are paid a living wage. This is a tip off to us all as to really when will be the big day and the crowds will line up. Starbucks has been in production stocking up on souvenir mugs with “ITALY” and “MILANO” emblazoned on the side. One can only imagine how the massive Duomo will be presented. Of course, one year after the opening they will change design to make these coffee mugs highly prized and valuable merchandise on ebay.com. The furniture for Starbucks is rumored to be stored nearby, complete with their imported toilets they use in all their stores. They are ready! But the officials of Milano are not!
The newest problem is a matter of landscaping. How can Starbucks be involved with landscaping you ask? A councillor, Pierfrancesco Maran, has announced that "Starbucks with its garden will give an exotic touch to the square, while currently present trees will be replanted in other areas of Milan.” - -an article by— Manuela Messina, journalist in Milano. What this boils down to is that Starbucks made a plan to change the landscaping to spruce up their coffee quaffing shop. Green it up, after all, who wants to look at those romantic century old buildings! So it has been decided to place palm trees while removing the trees and plants that will go to another area of milano. Palm Trees! This is so NOT Milano. Can you imagine the indignation of conservative Italians?
Another quote from Messina: "In the west of the square, rows of palm and banana for a spectacular scene with vegetation of large evergreen leaves. Will also be planted shrubs, grasses and perennials with alternating blooms during the seasons in various shades of pink: in spring a carpet of Bergenia, during the summer the big hydrangea flowers in variety Vanille Fraise and hibiscus, in the autumn of inflorescences Chinese giant reeds. A dark gravel carpet finally exalt contrast to the green of the system, which will be powered by an automatic irrigation system. “
Madonna! This is so American! Gravel carpet and automatic sprinkling systems! All in front of the former Post Office building in Piazza Cordusio! To Italians this is much as if Italians planted palm trees at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty complete with expensive gondola rides to Manhattan. BTW, Some years ago the mayor of San Francisco planted palm trees along the street of Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. Many people were not happy about that. It’s the American way!
Thirty-three years ago, Schultz visited Milan and Verona, wrote off the trip on his taxes, and began to build his multi million dollar enterprize. The stage is almost set, and soon the curtain will rise. I project that the lines will be formed with touristas, and the young. With only one Starbucks it will be a popular success, but when their strategic approach moves to capitalize on more shops Starbucks will be less popular. After 8 years of living here, and my daily experience in my coffee bar, I believe the average Italian will remain loyal to their old shop and baristas.
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But you will need a translator, try google translate.