At a Starbucks in Kyoto, Japan, that opened Friday, customers take off their shoes to hang out on tatami mats and sip matcha tea latte. The company preserved the original design of the 100-year-old townhouse that houses the new Starbucks, dubbed the Kyoto Ninei-zaka Yasaka Chayaten.
The coffeehouse's mermaid insignia is printed on the curtain at the entrance. Other than that, there are few of Starbucks' typical visual cues. Inside are hanging scrolls made of a fabric used to make kimonos locally and three rooms with tatami mats, and outside there's landscaping designed to look like a traditional Japanese garden. The shop is located near Kyoto's Kiyomizu temple, which was founded 1,200 years ago and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. To avoid disrupting the neighborhood, the company said it wouldn't let people line up out front.
The coffee chain has over 26,000 shops worldwide, and it has been trying to make more of them feel local and one-of-a-kind instead of mass-produced.
That has sometimes meant working with traditional architectural details. The company recently restored the 19th century ceiling mural in its Paris shop on the Boulevard des Capucines, near the city's historic Opera Garnier. A shop in London, on Great Portland Street, has walls with dark paneling to suit the molding on the ceiling. The original wood floors were also restored.
Even when the building is new or in a shopping mall, the company sometimes nods to area traditions or hires local artists. A location at Cityplaza mall in Hong Kong uses 150 small sculptures by local artist Niko Leung depicting coffee equipment, like French presses and kettles. At the Gaysorn mall in Bankok, Thailand, local painter Jeentee Baiposuwan created a mural of Starbucks' mermaid swimming -- it's charming, and also very on-brand.