Starbucks Shipping Container Store

Case Studies

Starbucks Reclamation Drive Thru Shipping Container Store Blog Cover

We have an interesting article today about Starbucks. They decided to build several stores made from shipping containers. Maybe you have already seen some of these stores. Let’s take a look at how they were designed and what they look like now.


Starbucks headquarters is based in Seattle and overlooks the Puget Sound. There is a a busy shipping port there which provided the inspiration for their project. When the Starbucks design team began thinking of an Eco friendly store idea they looked out of the window over to the shipping port. This began the discussion about of using some of the older decommissioned shipping containers to build a new sustainable store.

Their Global Store Design Senior Manager, Anthony Perez, said they wanted their new Eco-friendly store to “be green, thought-provoking and sustainable- the sort of project that stirs chatter”. Anthony succeeded in his task since the stores have been featured all over the internet, on The Huffington Post, and CNN!

Starbucks uses such shipping containers to deliver their coffee, tea and other materials all across the world, so it seems quite fitting that they decided to use the containers to build a store. The shipping containers are normally scrapped after their working lifespan of 20-25 years. Starbucks wanted a way to help reduce their waste stream throughout their supply chain.

Starbucks set out to design a drive-through/walk-in store that was LEED-certified, like all other new Starbucks stores built throughout the US.

Anthony Perez, their Global Store Design Senior Manager, said that they wanted the Starbucks container store to create “experiences that honor the integrity of the neighborhoods where they operate”.

Interestingly, they said one of the fun parts of designing with shipping containers was centered around the fact that they couldn’t modify the dimensions of the containers.  They had to completely rethink how everything would fit inside of this new shape which became sort of a great big puzzle to be solved! Starbucks decided to prefabricate the containers offsite. When the containers were delivered to the site it only took 10-14 days for the new store to open.


These stores have been a great success for Starbucks, both environmentally and economically. Starbucks settled on the idea of using four end-of-life containers for a store. An end-of-life container is one that has been decommissioned from being used as freight. Using the four shipping containers, Starbucks managed to create a store with 450 square feet. They have positioned the containers to create a drive-through around the store that looks appealing. Not only did Starbucks create a really fascinating store, it is also LEED certified.

The stores are modular structures which makes it very easy to be transported. They are pre-built in the US and then delivered to the site ready to go. If Starbucks decides to move a store, it can be dissembled and moved to another site easily. Another nice touch is using another, smaller, 20-foot container as a garbage and recycling center.

Starbucks also has installed a grey-water collector on the roof and the collected rainwater is used to water the plants in the surrounding gardens. They also decided to use the containers themselves as sign posts which guide the customers into the store!

If you haven’t seen the Seattle store or other stores in person, look at some of the reviews:

  • This is such a cool Starbucks! It is not a traditional store … This is a great place to enjoy the sunny weather and catch up with friends you want to meet. – Lisa P
  • This is a neat Starbucks. I don’t think I have seen any other stores like this. We lovingly call this store the Container Store. – Danielle C
  • The shape they used for these stacked metal boxes is great, too. This all lends itself a nice, cool modern and bold touch with a great design package using Starbucks’s rustic dark paint scheme. – Daren D
  • This is a pretty fun location to stop by. They build this purely to show the container that carries the Starbucks coffee. – Jingwen Y

If you’d like to see a video of the construction of the Starbucks shipping container store take a look at the CNN news story:

Next Steps

Since the success of the Seattle shipping container store, they have launched similar ones in Colorado, Chicago, Denver, Oregon and Kansas City. The shop in Colorado is made from only two end-of-life containers and the exterior is clad with recycled snow fencing from Wyoming. Chicago’s shipping container store opened in October 2013 and has been very well received. The store itself was made in California before it was hauled acrossed the US to its final resting place in Edgewater.

Arthur Rubinfeld, Starbucks’ Global Development President, states these stores represent a much large global initiative to build Eco friendly stores worldwide.

Congratulations to Starbucks for thinking outside of the box and showing other companies how using shipping containers can be both interesting and good for the environment. Let’s hope other companies decide to follow suit and start making their own shipping container stores!

Have you seen any other shipping container stores? Do you have any ideas for how other companies could use shipping containers? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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