For me, Starbucks is a company unlike any other. It’s the one company I think of when I’m out looking for a cup of coffee. In fact, the terms “Starbucks” and “coffee” are interchangeable in my mind. I might say to someone “I’m going out for a Starbucks. Do you want anything?” and they’ll know what I mean. I don’t make “Skippy and Smucker’s” sandwiches for my kids, and I wouldn’t think to order a “Pepperoni Domino’s” for dinner. But with Starbucks, it’s something else altogether.
I bought a small handful of Starbucks shares, back around 2006. It eventually went up to $40 a share for a few minutes, and then–like a caffeine buzz wearing off–it started to drop. The recession set in, and people who were worried about keeping their jobs didn’t want to spent $5 for a coffee anymore. I stopped watching its descent, but I also couldn’t bring myself to sell that tiny stake in the company. It would have felt like giving up on coffee itself, and that was more than I could bear to do.
The stock was down to around $7 a share in 2008, and then it started to come back. Howard Schultz returned as the CEO, and he brought the company back to where it was, and then some. Today the stock is at $50 a share, and Starbucks is pushing into new markets like China and India. And if these traditionally tea-drinking nations develop a taste for coffee instead, look out!
I like how it feels to own a tiny, tiny little piece of Starbucks. Perhaps other companies make more money than Starbucks does, but I’m certain that I couldn’t readily see (and partake of) what it is that they do. And that means something. I bought their stock with the goal of making money, yes, but I also like to think that, when I walk into a Starbucks, all of my interests in the company are somehow concentrated into that one location.
To give an example, there are fifteen letters lit up in the “STARBUCKS COFFEE” sign above. Perhaps I own ten of those letters. Or let’s say I’m out and I need to use the restroom somewhere. I can go into a Starbucks and not feel bad about it because, after all, I own the place. And even if it’s just the bathroom door and the toilet and the mirror on the wall in that one location, it’s still something, isn’t it?
Are there any companies that you feel this way about? Disney, perhaps, when you go to see one of their films in the theater, or visit Disney World in Florida? Or maybe it’s Nike, and it feels like all the athletes wearing the Swoosh stripe are working on your behalf? Or maybe it’s something else that I can’t think of here. Tell me about it in the space below, if you’re so inclined. And thanks for reading, as always.