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How Starbucks turns red overnight for the holidays

How Starbucks turns red overnight for the holidays

December  04 - 2023

Coffee Geography Magazine


It happens once a year – when 18,000 Starbucks stores all over North America are transformed on the same night with stacks of holiday cups wrapped like gifts, colorful bags of Christmas Blend lining the shelves and bright red menu boards with the season’s festive beverages. It’s the holidays at Starbucks, and this year Coffee Geography Magazine is exposing the people who bring the holiday magic to life. 

At Sandy Roquet’s store on Main Street in downtown Edmonds, Wash., unopened cartons of holiday merchandise had already caused a stir before their set-up even began. “Customers have been trying to peek in the boxes that say “no peeking,” Roquet said. “I've had people hanging around just waiting to take one little look while we're getting ready.”

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Once the store closed for the evening, Roquet and her team donned their holiday garb, cranked up the holiday music and worked late into the night unboxing the cups and merchandise to get the store ready. 

“It’s like a crisp, new beginning,” Roquet said. “I love spreading joy in the store. It just oozes the holiday spirit out to everyone.” 

For partner Elena Umeno, who has done more than a dozen holiday sets over the years during her 18-year tenure, her favorite moment is when customers come through the doors and see all the red signs and the red aprons for the first time. “Everyone’s face is always surprised. There’s often a gasp – and maybe an occasional groan by the people who aren’t ready yet – but it’s always exciting.”

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Meanwhile, over at the 7th Ave. & Camelback Road store in Phoenix, partners dressed in cozy holiday pajamas to get into the holiday spirit as they decorated. On Thursday morning, the Community Store, dedicated to helping youth and underserved people in their community, had a line of customers queued outside before opening to get their hands on the new holiday cups, drinks and food while partners took turns guessing which pieces of merchandise would fly off the shelves first. 

“These ornaments are always my favorite part of holiday launch,” said Ariel Torres, a three-year partner. “It’s been a tradition since I remember to get one for my mom every year for Christmas and now that I live in a different state than her, it makes it that much more special.” Store manager Tatum Young said, “My favorite part of holiday set is when we are doing the final walk through of the store and just seeing all of the new holiday items. It’s just like waking up on Christmas morning!”

In Chicago’s Northalsted neighborhood, the partners at the store at 3358 North Broadway, swapped out the menu boards and stocked the coffee and holiday beverage ingredients. Cambee Morris, a nine-year shift supervisor training to become a Coffee Master, said the seasonal coffee is the highlight of the holidays. “My favorite part is when the coffee lovers see Christmas Blend on the shelves and their eyes light up,” Morris said. 

Mya Pici, shift supervisor, loves the moment when people come in and see the store has transformed. “No matter what's going on in their lives,” she said, “it’s just a nice moment to walk in and have at least one space where everybody is festive and happy.”