HIGHLAND PARK –– After Monica Alcaraz visited the neighborhood’s newly opened Starbucks last summer, she left disappointed from the rather bare bones store. “It was not what I thought we were going to get,” said Alcaraz of the York Boulevard outlet that was soon derided as the “most depressing Starbucks in America.” But on Tuesday, Alcaraz was back at the Highland Park store after it was remodeled in response to criticism. “It’s a huge difference,” said Alcaraz, who is president of the neighborhood council. “It’s so open and inviting.”
Alcaraz along with other residents got a sneak peak at the remodeled store on Tuesday in advance of today’s re-opening for walk-up customers. While the outlet still lacks an indoor seating area, the semi-enclosed front entrance has been opened up to allow more light and tables; a restroom door has been moved away from the order window and replaced by artwork; reclaimed wood siding now warms up the exterior; metal security bars have been removed and a modern, metal trellis has been installed over a side patio. These and other changes pleased those who attended the preview.
“They really rose to the occasion,” said Harvey Slater, chairman of the neighborhood council’s planning and land use committee. “They really didn’t have to do anything. They really showed good faith to the community.”
Starbucks district manager Tim Douglass said the changes are intended to create a more welcoming environment for patrons who arrive on foot or on bike and want to “sit around and unwind.” The Highland Park Starbucks, a former hamburger stand that was remodeled last year, had originally been designed primarily for drive-up customers, who are already lined up when the store opens at 5 a.m. on weekdays.
“We have to make sure that we please both groups,” said Douglass.