Starbucks, the most ubiquitous coffee chain on planet Earth, could have been called something else — and it doesn't quite have the same ring as the name caffeine addicts have come to know and love.
Starbucks cofounder Gordon Bowker told The Seattle Times that the original name for the chain was Cargo House, which he admits "would have been a terrible, terrible mistake." So, Bowker and fellow coffee impresario Terry Heckler (the two actually worked at an advertising agency together before starting Starbucks) went back to square one and drew from what they knew about consumer perception and the power of branding.
Bowker explained that he knew that words that started with "st" are seen as powerful and strong. The two began to research the Pacific Northwest and found an old map that had some old-school names on it. One even started with the letters "st."
"Somebody somehow came up with an old mining map of the Cascades and Mount Rainier, and there was an old mining town called Starbo," Bowker told The Seattle Times.
But the two weren't satisfied. After sort-of shelving Starbo, Bowker and Heckler were fiddling around with names inspired by nautical influences (hence the store's siren logo), Bowker says that the two looked into Moby Dick and Captain Ahab's ship's name, Pequod. That name was considered, too, but it didn't quite work.
Then, Bowker explains that he found the name "Starbuck" in Melville's novel and somehow connected that to coffee. He didn't know it at the time, but he explained to Readers Digest that the film version of Moby Dick was a bigger influence on Starbucks than the actual book. In the movie, Captain Ahab's first mate is crazy about coffee — something that isn't mentioned in the tome.
Starbucks' official stance on its name is that it "[evokes] the romance of the high seas and the seafaring tradition of the early coffee traders," but Bowker is quick to dismiss it. He's the first guy to admit that it was just happy coincidence that the somewhat-nautical name happened to coincide with advertising theory and that first not-so-great name got scrapped early on.
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