The big day is finally here. The largest Starbucks in the world opened Friday in Chicago.
The 35,000-square-foot Reserve Roastery drew massive lines to its Michigan Avenue storefront, with an estimated 1,000 gathered before doors had opened at 9 a.m. Customers from near and far, some from across the country and even Mexico, waited for their chance at experiencing the grand opening.
The interior of the space had been under wraps since construction started a few years ago. No one knew what the inside of the "epic" five-floor space would look like in place of the iconic Crate and Barrel building at Michigan Avenue and Erie Street - until now.
But if you think Chicago's Reserve Roastery, the world's sixth and largest location, is just a massive coffee shop, think again.
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Imagine an industrial-chic Willy Wonka factory for craft coffee lovers, cocktail aficionados and Chicago devotees. Picture whiskey barrel-aged coffee, coffee that looks like a science experiment, liquid nitrogen gelato and artisanal pastries.
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And that's only what’s edible. There's also plenty of Chicago swag. Oh, and "pipes that shoot the beans from floor to floor."
If you're feeling overwhelmed, so is the general manager.
"People are going to see something reimagined," said Shauna McKenzie-Lee. "I think that should give Chicago a lot of pride."
"It is so Chicago," said David Anthony Geary, one of several Chicago artists to feature their work at the roastery. "It’s warm and a little hard at the same time. It’s layered like Chicago. I love that."
Gordan Segal, the founder of Crate and Barrel, said the space aims to honor the past while keeping the iconic retail experience alive.
"Wonderful experiences, feelings, emotions in all your senses," Segal said. "Your sight, your smell, your sound. … It’s wonderful in a building like this."
With five different shades of green ceiling planks jutting out from a castle-like coffee bean centrifuge, the design encourages visitors to look upward.
"By building a five-story roastery, you’re going to have to bring people up," said Jill Enomoto, vice president of Starbucks Global Design & Innovation. "We took that tradition of moving people with the escalators but added a little twist on it."
"Believe it or not, this is the only curved escalator in the entire Midwest," Enomoto said.
So, why Chicago?
Chicago was the first city that Starbucks expanded to outside of Seattle in 1987. The first airport Starbucks opened at O’Hare International Airport in 1992.
"This roastery is a representation of the relationship Starbucks has had with the city of Chicago," Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said.
It truly is a sip through Chicago history that will give you something to talk about at the coffee table.
"We’re really proud to be in Chicago, and it should be really clear that we’re a part of and we’re looking to integrate into Chicago," McKenzie-Lee said.
The rooftop, not yet complete, is expected to open next year when the weather is better. Doors opened to the public at 9 a.m. on Friday.