But you don't have to go to a Starbucks to get Starbucks coffee. You can find a cup in any Westin Hotel, in Barnes & Noble bookstores, Star Markets, Nordstrom department stores, even at Chicago's Wrigley Field. Cadillac is sending out 22,000 samples of Starbucks coffee to people they hope will buy their new Catera model. Pepsi has signed on to market bottled Frappucino and Mazagran, Starbucks coffee drinks. Sunset Books has produced Starbucks cookbooks.
The assault isn't just by land. It's by sea, on Holland American cruise lines. It's in the air, on United Airlines, where, while sipping Starbucks, travelers can listen to the Starbucks in-flight entertainment channel, playing the same tunes heard in your local Starbucks store (CDs available through Rhino, Capital Records and BMG). And you'll find it at numerous U.S. airports as soon as you touch down.
And, of course, it's in cyberspace: Just punch in keywords "Starbucks Cafe," "great coffee" or "espresso" on America Online.
It's no accident that the company logo features a siren: a mermaid with two tails. "What does she have to do with Starbucks coffee? Everything. She lures, she seduces, cajoles," says the company's literature. "She is an aphrodisiac. She is desire. Our siren is the coffee. Starbucks coffee."
But what starts to smell like a fresh-roasted monopoly is also a much-admired, humane business.
Starbucks treats its customers kindly. Behind the counter, your "barista" will patiently help you order a "half-decaf double-tall two-percent vanilla latte," all the while making sure that your espresso always takes just 18 to 23 seconds to draw.
It treats its employees well, too, offering full benefits and "Bean Stock" stock options to everyone who works at least half-time, says company spokeswoman Goodell.
Starbucks even works to help some of the countries that supply its coffee, bringing clean water to communities in Guatemala and Indonesia through the relief agency CARE, which it supports with donations of more than $100,000 a year. Baltimore-area stores, meantime, sponsor the Baltimore Reads literacy program.
The company's goal is to create a "vital third place" -- other than work and home -- for Americans. That ideal grew out of a visit to Italy by CEO Howard Schultz in 1983, when Starbucks was a local chain of a half-dozen stores. Schultz, who led a buyout of the original owners in 1986, noticed the espresso bar was the place where Italians gathered and a sense of community grew. On that model, Starbucks grew -- to 250 stores in the next five years.
"There have been neighborhoods in cities we've absolutely turned around because we entered them, and after we did, other [businesses] did, too," says Dean Torrenga, mid-Atlantic regional director for Starbucks, mentioning Chinatown in Washington, D.C., among others.
But the Daily Grind's Key points out the flip side to Starbucks' arrival in some places. When Starbucks moved into Washington's DuPont Circle, he said, it wasn't long before the tiny neighborhood coffee store across the street, in business for more than 20 years, was gone.
That sort of scenario has brought out foes in several cities, from San Francisco to Katonah, N.Y., where some feel Starbucks arrival means the beginning of the end for local, independent retailers.
Carole Baptist-Souza is one of those small retailers. She owns the Gourmet Coffee Cellar in Ashland, Ore., and is distributing the "Friends Don't Let Friends Go to Starbucks" bumper stickers.
Unlike some other Starbucks critics, Baptist-Souza has no quarrel with the quality of the mega-brew. But a Starbucks is opening in Ashland soon, and Baptist-Souza worries that it will hurt the ambience of her small town.
"It's kind of like shooting in a duck pond," she says of the company's decision to enter a market smaller coffee sellers built. "The bottom line is, profits from the company leave the community and go back to the stockholders."
But Starbucks' Goodell says such criticism is half-baked. She points out that the stores hire local workers, give all beans more than a week out of the bag to local nonprofits, and have a budget for local charitable donations.
She adds that in some cities, small coffee companies are entering neighborhoods Starbucks has developed, to take advantage of new gourmet coffee consumers.
Rose Marie Greenburg, owner of Ashland's Cuppa Joe coffee store, is more resigned to what she sees as the inevitable.
"It's the General Motors of coffee," Greenburg says. "Whaddaya want?"
The griping about Starbucks as monolithic corporate entity doesn't seem to bother the company much. Goodell, for instance, sees positives in the comparisons to McDonald's.
"Something McDonald's does very well is provide consistent service and a consistent product," she says. "Starbucks tries to provide a consistent quality product in all locations, so in Seattle or Dallas or Baltimore, the quality of coffee and quality of service you are given should be the same."