October 10, 2012People were lined up outside the new Starbucks in the city's iconic saucer-shaped building on South Grand Boulevard when its doors opened for the first time at 5 a.m. Friday, Sept. 28.
College students, business professionals, community members and those who rallied to save the building from being razed poured into the coffee shop that was formerly a Del Taco.
It's a Starbucks that almost wasn't. When the Del Taco closed in July 2011, it looked as though demolition was to be the fate of the uniquely-shaped structure that developer Rick Yackey said he planned to replace with a more traditional building. After several protests and online petitions to save the structure gained support, Yackey changed courses – and many are grateful.
"Rick Yackey and his partner (Hany Abounader of Balke Brown Transwestern) are heroes," said Randy Vines, a co-owner of STL-Style on Cherokee Street and Landmarks Association Board member who was at the forefront of the movement to save the saucer. "We didn't think it would get saved because we're used to losing neat buildings. This symbolizes a shift in attitudes and consciousness of mid-century buildings and is an example of what could be and should be done to save them. People underestimate the adaptability of these buildings."
His twin brother, Jeff Vines, also a co-owner of STL-Style and Landmarks Commission board member who led ralleys to save the structure, echoed that sentiment.
"This represents a shift in what we value as a city – it's a new way of thinking," Jeff Vines said. "And, this is the most memorable Starbucks in the St. Louis – and probably the country."
Hany Abounader, vice president of commercial brokerage at Balke Brown and Yackey's partner in this endeavor, said he's excited about how Starbucks turned out.
"This is the appropriate way to save a building," Abounader said, sipping a cup of coffee on opening day as a steady stream of customers flowed into Starbucks. "We wanted this to be something that served the area."
Yackey said even though the size of a new building could have been bigger, he's more than satisifed with the way the saucer came back to life.
"I'm totally happy with the way it turned out," he said. "It's a really nice project and it puts a corporate stamp on the area. It's very good for the neighborhood."
Chipotle will soon occupy the other half of the recently rehabbed saucer. The Mexican fast-food restaurant is slated to start construction on its side of the saucer on Oct. 15 and should be ready to open by the end of the year, Yackey said.
"It's the best location," said St. Louis University student Dominique D'Souza. "It's very convenient and it's going to be a great place to study and hang out."