First Look: Eight things to know about Starbucks’ massive new store in Chicago

Marianne Wilson
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Starbucks Coffee Company is opening its largest location ever, a 35,000-sq.-ft. location in Chicago, on Friday. 

The new Starbucks Reserve Roastery, housed inside Crate & Barrel’s former flagship on Michigan Avenue, marks the company’s sixth location of its upscale roastery format, an experiential concept that specializes in premium small-batch roasting coffees. Designed to celebrate the company’s heritage, the roasting and craft of coffee and the locale, the five-floor Chicago outpost boasts three coffee bars, a cocktail bar and a bakery and cafe.

“The design of the Chicago Roastery was inspired by the iconic Chicago landmark, and the city itself,” said Jill Enomoto, VP of Roastery design & concept for Starbucks. “We embraced the building’s natural light, married it with shades of classic Starbucks greens and intentionally wove in design features to encourage customer exploration and highlight the love and respect we have for coffee.”

Here are eight things to know about the new Roastery.

• The Chicago Roastery is a working coffee roastery where Starbucks will small-batch roast the company’s rarest single-origin coffees and blends (Starbucks Reserve). The coffee roasted in Chicago will be served exclusively (in beverages or in bags) at the location. After being roasted, the coffee beans will rest and be de-gassed in the store’s centerpiece: a towering 56-ft.-tall steel and aluminum cask with a bronze finish. The cask has a perforated shell that allow visitors to watch roasted beans moving through tubes.

• Encircling the cask is a curved escalator – the Midwest’s first – taking visitors from the first to the second floor and on a 360-degree tour of the roasting, brewing, and scooping below. The curved glass windows provide a view of Michigan Avenue.

• The Roastery features murals from local artists, including a piece by Eulojio Ortega that unfolds in a staircase spanning all five floors. It depicts the journey of coffee from tree to cherry to harvest and is designed as a tribute to coffee-growing farmers. 

Another mural, on the fourth floor is a visual “love letter” to the city of Chicago and its people, architecture, music, art, neighborhoods, lake, river – even its weather.

• The three coffee bars include the main level Reserve coffee bar, where baristas turn out classic coffee beverages.  The third floor is home to the “experiential” coffee bar where customers have the opportunity to “immerse in the art, science, and theater of coffee.” It features elevated brew methods and pairings, as well as specialty Roastery beverages and brew comparison flights.

The fourth floor is home to a “barrel-aged” coffee bar featuring a variety of spirit-free coffee beverages whose beans have been carefully aged in barrels. The menu includes cocktail-inspired coffee creations exclusive to the location. Also on the fourth floor is the Italian-inspired Arriviamo Bar, which offers traditional and unique cocktails.

• The second-floor Princi bakery and café offers freshly-baked breads, cornetti and focaccia, pizza, cakes and tarts along with salads. Exclusive to the location is a bakery conveyor designed by Starbucks to transport fresh baked goods from the Princi bakery to the Starbucks Reserve Coffee Bar on the main level.

• The Roastery Chicago is the only Starbucks location in the U.S. to offer on-demand liquid nitrogen gelato. Designed to pair with Starbucks Reserve coffee, the gelato is mixed by hand, with every scoop made on the spot.

• All the Roasteries have iconic ceilings designed to support both the overall design as well as seamlessly incorporate functions such as acoustics, HVAC, Wi-Fi, and lighting. The ceiling in Chicago, with rings of outward spiraling shades of green, was designed to symbolize rays of sun touching rolling hills of green coffee trees. The shades of green were inspired by the agricultural nature of growing coffee. Illuminated ‘sunbeams’ radiate outward throughout the floors.

The Chicago Roastery joins existing Roastery locations in Seattle, Shanghai, Milan, New York, and Tokyo. Additional locations have yet to be announced. 

“These Roasteries amplify the Starbucks brand, serve as innovation hubs, and create experiences for millions of customers around the world,” said Kevin Johnson, CEO, Starbucks.