Among the many things I waste my time and money on few compare to coffee. Now, I prefer smaller local coffee shops over “big corporate coffee” but I still frequent the ‘bou . Sometimes, if I’m desperate enough, I’ll even enter a Starbucks (yeah, that’s right – you can start typing your hate mail now).
However, I have to admit, Starbucks has a much more interesting history than Caribou – and I am a sucker for trivial facts.
Starbucks is named in part after Starbuck, Captain Ahab’s first mate in the novel Moby-Dick, as well as a turn-of-the-century mining camp (Starbo or Storbo) on Mount Rainier. According to Howard Schultz’s book Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time, the name of the company was derived from Moby-Dick, although not in as direct a fashion as many assume. Gordon Bowker liked the name “Pequod” (the ship in the novel), but his then creative partner Terry Heckler suggested “Starbo”. Brainstorming with these two ideas resulted in the company being named for the Pequod’s first mate, Starbuck.
Starbuck, the young first mate of the Pequod, is a thoughtful and intellectual Quaker from Nantucket. Starbuck was an important Quaker family name on Nantucket Island, and there were several actual whalemen of this period named “Starbuck,” as evidenced by the name of Starbuck Island in the South Pacific whaling grounds.
Uncommonly conscientious for a seaman, and endued with a deep natural reverence, the wild watery loneliness of his life did therefore strongly incline him to superstition; but to that sort of superstition, which in some organization seems rather to spring, somehow, from intelligence than from ignorance.
—Moby-Dick, Ch. 26
That strong superstation, described in chapter 26 of Moby-Dick, is what many believe lead the Starbucks founders to use a Mermaid as the company logo.
But I’ve always wondered: if the company is named after first mate Starbuck wouldn’t this be his coffee shop? And, if so, wouldn’t that necessitate an apostrophe in the name; making it Starbuck’s Coffee? But, who am I kidding? I’m sure there’s no snooty Starbucks coffee-snob patron that would ever argue over something as silly as grammar…