HOWARD BEHAR AND I ‘TALK’ AT A STARBUCKS
“You know the store where Tripio takes place is gone now?” I asked Howard next. I had no idea why.
“Oak Park?” He looked back from the street to meet my eyes.
‘No. The one on the corner of Diversey, Clark and Broadway. Dickens is stll there, though.’
“I thought you lived in Indy“
“I did, I mean. Still do. My youngest son just started college. Well, on Zoom in his room. My oldest two sons both graduated from Purdue. I call them the Fantastic Four.”
“Yeah. I have a daughter. She and I went to Chicago to research Tripio. Plus, I took her to Chicago as a present before she went off to college. And just to see if what I remembered was right. I could talk about the Fantastic Four for days. Anyway, Diversey was closed. The whole building is different now.”
“Diversey and Dickens. Yea. Both had the the espresso bar as theater. You know, there were 28 stores when I moved there. Looked up a few years later and there were 300. The pace, the growth did cost us some really good people. That’s one thing I would say I regret.”
Tripio excerpt- It’s been just over 3 years of my life spent here. All of it gainfully employed by the *Cosmodemonic. Every day I go in something big could happen: stock split, a new market, a headline in Barron’s about some agreement we’ve made to buy a competitor. In fact, we are soon going to have cafes going up inside Mega sized bookstores. And I am one of the quickly shrinking percentage of people who got the first stock grant. There won’t be a second one. No second chance to spill apple cider on my khakis as a toast to the event. I have taken to telling customers that you will never see a Cosmodemonic at a rest stop along the highway or in a strip mall. Now, I can’t be sure of anything. People I started with those 3 years ago are scarce now. The coffee god is long gone. So is Candace. Mark. Lost track of Doug. Kati may be next.
* In Tripio I call Starbucks the Cosmodemonic Coffee Company
From cars passing on the street out front and even to the people walking by, Howard and I were just two guys talking at a Starbucks. A scene so commonplace that no one would even notice. One had so much to do with making it commonplace on the grand scale and one by steaming milk in the trenches. Howard talked evenly, without embellishment of those days, making no claims of greatness for himself. He was talking about his Starbucks days like he had left those days well behind him. I didn’t ask when and why he left Starbucks. I was enjoying the old memories as well. The stores had a certain scent when you first opened them in the early morning. The first thing you did was start to brew the coffee of the day into huge canisters. They were breaking down doors to get in back in those days. If the open didn’t go well, if your location was behind when you opened the doors, it was like Helm’s Deep. As the huge urns brewed they produced different noises at different parts of the process which one could here throughout the now empty store. As an opener with a key, I knew that if I had certain things done by the time the first urns were full and fell silent, then I would be ready to open the doors. I wondered there and then what Howard’s private, seldom recalled memories were. Not the ones in other interviews and books. I did like the chicken soup one from earlier. I wondered more really, how they made him feel, or what actions they produced. His memories were his and mine mine. He left Starbucks and so did I.
As Tripio brilliantly tells, I could have stayed and been a yacht buying millionaire like my coffee drinking,and one time colleague across from me – If I stayed for just 20 more years. Life took me in other directions. It had other plans for me and they did materialize. But, I never left Starbucks truly behind until I wrote Tripio. I am sure I partly wrote Tripio as a cathartic exercise, in order to release, at last, the question of “Why didn’t I stay?“. All this recollection only took a second or two and I was about to ask Howard when and why he left Starbucks but he beat me to it with a question of his own.
“So how many copies of the book have you sold?”
“121.” I responded quickly like I knew. I really had no idea. I had lapsed into “my boss asked me a questions so I better have an answer” mode. Maybe I hadn’t left Starbucks completely behind me after all.