Well, it has finally happened… Starbucks has decided to open up a store (two stores actually) in Hunan province! I guess I can no longer say that there are no Starbucks for “70 million people!”
I’ve been waiting for a long, long time for this opening, and at times, I wondered if it would ever come or if the Starbucks ‘Empire’ would die out before it made it to my little part of the world! The opening day was on Thursday, but I had a lot to do on Thursday and I already had other business in Changsha to do on Friday, so it would be a day after the grand opening that I would make it to Starbucks, but that was okay!
On the day of the opening, my old friend Jason (Chen Xu) called me up at 7:45 and asked me if I knew that Starbucks was opening that day and he really wanted me to come down for the ceremonies. I told him that I could not, but that I’d be there real soon to get my first shot of Changsha caffination (is that a word?) I didn’t realize that Jason was ‘working’ at Starbucks for the opening as his bank has a promotional partnership and he was representing his bank as Starbucks opened it’s 400th store! So when I showed up on Friday and Jason was sitting there, I was pleasantly surprised. He bought me a cup of coffee and a really cool Changsha City coffee mug! Thanks man!
The store was crowded, but not as crowded as I imagined it would be. Even though the employees were still ‘learning the ropes’, everything moved along pretty smoothly! I was able to meet the store manager, who was very busy, and also one of the very ‘eager’ employees who told me his English name was also “Stephen!” (I guess we’ll have to become friends!) He allowed me to buy some coffee beans at his store employee price – 30% off! He said to find him next time I come to Starbucks, I think I will!
One of the things I had read about the new Starbucks opening in Changsha was that there would be some ‘local distinctives’ in the Hunan stores. What could that possibly mean? Spicy Pumpkin Latte? Stinky Cheesecake? Beetlenut gum? Nope, the one thing I noticed was the chocolate cake with a chili pepper on top! I didn’t actually see the cake, but you can see it on the menu in this photo!
One great thing that they have that you might not think is very special is “to go” cups. You see, in the US, they are ubiquitous, so you don’t even think about them as being anything special. Well, here in China, people generally don’t think of coffee as a beverage you drink on the go, so the idea of a “to go” cup seems completely outrageous! So I was pleasantly surprised to see a healthy supply of “to go” cups along with the normal coffee mugs!
There was plenty of seating, although I was told the second location across town was bigger and had more seating available. I’ll have to go check that second location out real soon!
Now I heard another rumor from a friend who seems to be in the know, that Starbucks plans on opening 10 stores in Hunan over the next 3 years. Do you think they will keep all of those in Changsha or could there possibly be one or two opened in Yueyang?! Stay tuned… you’ll hear it here first!