Will The Mag Mile Crate & Barrel Be Replaced By A Massive Starbucks Roastery?

By Stephen Gossett in Food on Apr 17, 2017 9:04PM

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Crate & Barrel, Michigan Ave / Flickr / Photo: Andrew E. Larsen

The flagship store for one of Chicago's most famous home-retailer brands could be on its way out, with a new sort of flagship possibly set to arrive from... Seattle's most iconic brand?

That's how it could shake out, as the Tribune reports, citing real estate sources, that Starbucks is considering setting up a massive roastery inside the Magnificent Mile location currently occupied by Crate & Barrel (646 N Michigan Ave.).

Starbucks only has one Roastery in operation at the moment, in Seattle, but others are also in the works for New York, Milan, Shanghai and Tokyo, according to the Tribune. Meanwhile, Crate's lease is set to expire in the near future.

This of course begs the questions, what the heck is a Roastery and, why does it need so much space? (The building boasts four stories, some 35,000 square feet and one dramatic rotunda.) It's basically an all-things-Starbucks mega-center. The Seattle location "combines coffee production, menu testing, and architectural whimsy in a way that can't be found anywhere else in the world," according to a clearly taken Business Insider.

Irony of ironies, the retail tea leaves pointed toward a not-dissimilar integrated future for Crate & Barrel, possibly at that current location. The company, which was founded in Chicago and remains based in Northbrook, reportedly sought to blend a food-and-drink element into its stores, which sell dinnerware and glassware in addition to furniture and other home goods. But Restoration Hardware is suing the company on grounds related to that initiative, alleging that the company poached former RH executive and now recently departed Crate CEO Doug Diemoz after RH made similar moves under his tenure.

Crate & Barrel, which launched in 1962 in Old Town under founder Gordon Segal, had a harder time recovering from the recession than some of its rivals, and a potential vacancy from the Michigan Ave. location has been the subject of speculation in roundups like this.

Haley Drage, Director of Brand Communications for Starbucks, told Chicagoist that the coffee company "doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation." And Vicki Lang, Director of Public Relations and Community Affairs, told us that Crate & Barrel has no information to share at this time. So at this point, nothing is confirmed by either side. But if the transition does indeed go forward, it'll be a big one for the Mile.