I recently caught up with two men who were working for Starbucks before most anyone knew or cared about much about coffee in this country. I wanted to provide a unique look back at the now legendary company through the lens of my historical fiction novel, Tripio. By that I mean, I hope that this series of posts can provide a layered and long -view appreciation of what it took for Starbucks to become Starbucks from two men who were there to play big roles in making that happen. I was there as well, starting as a barista in 1990. My novel is a barista’s account of how the decisions and actions of these two (and few others, namely Howard Schultz) impacted his daily life. Tripio is not the history of Starbucks. That has been told and continues to be made. Tripio compliments and enlivens Howard and Kevin’s reflections of those times when Starbucks was making history and baristas like Jay were making lattes.
For those who don’t know, the year of the Starbucks IPO was 1992, which is why I placed Tripio in that year. Both Kevin https://www.lamarzoccousa.com/blog/kevin-knox/and Howard Beharhttp://howardbehar.com/ were at Starbucks during that time, as were roughly 450 other folks. Some became millionairess, some didn’t. By following this blog and/or reading Tripio you will discover what happened to at least three of those 450 folks working at a small coffee company in 1992, and perhaps learn a thing or two. Have fun!
I’ll begin with Kevin Knox, who appears in Tripio simply as “the Coffee God’.
“That is why I am here-for the great coffee. Plus Candace had more good news after class, especially for me. The new Regional Manager can’t make it to our next class. But the coffee God of the Cosmodemonic is coming town and is going to at least spend an hour with us.” –Tripio excerpt
Q-In Tripio, Jay answers a want ad for Starbucks in a Chicago paper. How did you find Starbucks? Or did they find you?
A-I worked for Starbucks two different times. The first time, in 1984-1985 I had learned everything I could at the little roaster-retailer in Boulder, Colorado and asked Bob Fullmer at green coffee importer Royal Coffee if he could recommend a company that was totally dedicated to product quality where I could learn more. “Well there’s a little outfit up in Seattle doing a pretty great job.” I quit, moved myself out to Seattle, moved into a funky group household and had to start off sweeping floors and packaging coffee after being in charge of production and training at my old place. But I was quickly promoted to be the 14th roaster in Starbucks history and got to hang out with Jim Reynolds, Tim McCormack, Jerry and Gordon and others.
I ended up going back to Brewing Market in Boulder (which I renamed Allegro Coffee in honor of Dave Olsen’s Café Allegro) but stayed in touch with Starbucks plant manager Hap Hewitt and others, and when Howard bought Starbucks I answered the ad for the Coffee Specialist position. I had to beat out every internal applicant from Il Giornale as well as Starbucks but I did. So I moved myself across the country a second time in 1987. At that time our entire office was Howard, Dave Olsen https://stories.starbucks.com/stories/2015/a-lasting-tradition/, Christine Day, Dawn Pinaud and me.
My starting pay was $24000 a year and I never made more than 40K (though they offered me 70K and Dave Olsen was willing to give me some of his own stock options if I were willing to stay (which I should have accepted as I’d have been a multi-millionaire within a few years). Instead I returned to Allegro as senior VP and Coffee Buyer in 1993 because I couldn’t stand to look like a hypocrite and betrayer to my fellow middle management peers who like me got nothing when we went public while we read the IPO listing our immediate bosses as millionaires on the spot.