Coffee in a Box?

Box O'Joe

Did you know they serve coffee in a box now? No, not the cardboard kind. We’re talking metal boxes. Yes, shipping containers! Why else would I be writing about it here. You see, Illy, Starbucks, la boîte cafe, and a few others have all experimented with concept stores made from the adorable metal box. The press has written a few stories of them over the last few years, in cased you missed them, these are some of my favorites: here, here, and here. Starbucks seems to be expanding their endeavor to look at redefining the drive-thru coffee shack – a uniquely Seattle thing. I say shack, as most of them look like they would fall over. Not these stores. They not only look solidly-anchored to the landscape, they actually have landscaping, rather than a sea of pavement. It’s an object in the landscape. A thing to be experiencedfrom the outside – mostly by car.

Did you know that over 90% of Starbucks customers take their drinks to go? So, why not have a few stores that eliminate the indoor seating and acknowledge that fact? Less is more. On this particular wet Saturday, there were a great deal of cars lined up just before lunch. Personally, I like getting out of the car, and often find the service is faster and enjoy interacting with people directly rather than through a talking menu board. For people like me, they have two standard and one accessible parking space, paired with a walk up window. I wasn’t allowed to take interior pictures, so use your imagination that there were four hard-working baristas in that 160 SF space.

The store seems mysterious, and appears to hold some secrets inside – like what’s going on upstairs? It seems to be an open air sculpture without an interior function. Although I can totally imagine that as an employee break patio. The map on the front is a nice touch, to show you where you are in this part of the city. The upper container has a silhouette of the very recognizable Ballard railroad bridge which I also visited this weekend, just West of the Chittenden Locks.

It’s just so cute. It even comes with matching bike rack and benches. I especially like two things about the mission behind these: the design team decided to use containers that have actually travelled a few trips. They’ve got the scars to prove it. Their reason for choosing this is straightforward: use less virgin materials, and keep the containers out of the waste stream. They say it better than I can, here (click to enlarge):

I like that my camera lens got wet at the end of the shoot. Adds authenticity. I’ll have to return at night, as I suspect that upper box lights up, like the Tukwilla store in the article referenced above.

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