In 1987 Starbucks had 11 retail stores, 100 employees and a very big dream. Today, there are over 13.000 Starbucks stores in the U.S alone, and over 20.000 all over the world.
In 1981, Schultz was 27 and riding high. He owned a great apartment in Manhattan and was pulling down 75 grand a year plus wonderful perks as vice president in charge of U.S operations for Hammarplast, a Swedish company that makes housewares and kitchen equipment.
He'd come a long way, having grown up in public housing in Brooklyn, the son of working-class parents, and the first in his family to earn a college diploma. Yet despite his success with Hammarplast, he was restless, unsettled, vaguely aware that he hadn't really found whatever he was looking for. That indefinable something would appear soon enough through a pair of epiphanies that would not only change his life but also alter the tastes and habits of many Americans.
As Schultz writes in his recent book, "Pour Your Heart Into It", the first revelation came in 1981 as he checked Hammarplast's sales records and noted a strange phenomenon: a little retailer in Seattle was placing unusually large orders for a certain type of drip coffeemaker.
The name of the business was Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spice. Curious, Schultz flew to Seattle and met Starbucks' owners, who acquainted him with the history of their five stores, which sold high-quality coffee beans and the accoutrements to grind and brew them.
They had been college roomies in San Francisco, where they had discovered the wonders of top-grade dark-roasted coffee from Alfred Peet, the son of a Dutch coffee trader who had started his own company after moving to the U.S in 1955 and being horrified to find how bad their coffee was.
The reason, they explained, was that U.S companies bought the inferior robusta beans, as opposed to the first-class arabica beans that Europe preferred. Schultz had found his destiny. By 1982 he'd joined Starbucks and was helping it expand its reach.
A year later Schultz flew to Milan for a housewares show where he spent a day sampling the city's numerous espresso bars. He loved the ambience, the aromas, the sense of community. He realized that selling coffee beans was too limiting. Indeed, Starbucks had missed the point. What they had to do was unlock the romance and mystery of coffee.
Now at least a million Americans each day form queues in more than 13.000 Starbucks stores to enjoy a pricey jolt of espresso in a variety of concoctions and sizes, familiarizing themselves with the strange vocabulary necessary to effect the transaction.