Pledging “humility and respect,” Starbucks is going to open its first store in Italy

Building its brand in the country of coffee.
Building its brand in the country of coffee.
Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
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Starbucks is finally heading to the place where it all began.

The US coffee chain announced today (Feb. 29) that it is opening a shop in Italy—the birthplace of the espresso. Its first store in the country is slated to open in Milan in early 2017.

“We’re going to try, with great humility and respect, to share what we’ve been doing and what we’ve learned through our first retail presence in Italy,” Schultz said in a statement. “Our first store will be designed with painstaking detail and great respect for the Italian people and coffee culture. And, my hope is that we will create a sense of pride for our partners – so much so that every partner who sees our store or walks through the doors will say: ‘we got it right.'”

The vision for Starbucks coffeehouses as we know them today was first conceived of on a trip to Milan in 1983, when CEO Howard Schultz was inspired by the baristas and locals gathered at coffee bars. He hoped to grow the Seattle-based roaster, which was founded in 1971, into an international chain with the coffee and craftsmanship to one day hold its own against any in Italy. Starbucks now has more than 21,000 stores across 65 countries.

To ensure that Starbucks does get it right, the coffee chain is partnering with Percassi, an Italian developer that has helped retail brands like Zara-parent company Inditex, Swatch, Calvin Klein, Guess, Tommy Hilfiger, and Levi’s enter the market.

“We know that we are going to face a unique challenge with the opening of the first Starbucks store in Italy, the country of coffee,” said Antonio Percassi, president of Percassi, in a statement. ”We are confident that Italian people are ready to live the Starbucks experience, as already occurs in many other markets.”

In Italy, where espresso is typically cheaper than it is in the US—around €0.90 to €1.20 ($0.98 to $1.30) compared to more than $2.00 at Starbucks’ New York, New York locations—Starbucks will have to compete on price with other coffee bars, Schultz told the New York Times. Its shops will cater to the region, with bars where customers can stand and enjoy a shot of espresso or cappuccino, as is customary in Italy.

Schultz recognizes that the chain will have to prove itself in the country. “We’re not coming here to teach Italians to make coffee — nothing like that at all,” Schultz told the publication. “We have to earn the respect.”

The company has reportedly considered entering the Italian market for awhile, but just now felt it was ready to take that step.

Starbucks isn’t the first American chain to co-opt Italian creations and try to sell them back to the country. Domino’s opened its first pizzeria in Italy last October. And ice-cream maker Ben and Jerry’s set up shop there in 2011.