Originally published December 12, 2011 at 5:44 PM | Page modified December 13, 2011 at 7:16 AM

Starbucks reusing shipping containers for drive-through store

Starbucks is opening a Tukwila location on Tuesday built using four used shipping containers. It measures 448 square feet — just enough room for three baristas to work.

Seattle Times business reporter

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The people who design Starbucks stores, from hip coffeehouse-style cafes on Capitol Hill in Seattle to a whimsical location at Paris Disney Village, spend a fair bit of time looking out their headquarters windows south of downtown Seattle.

Their view of trains carrying cargo gradually meshed with Starbucks' desire to create stores that are both mobile and energy efficient.

The result: Starbucks will open a drive-through and walk-up location in Tukwila on Tuesday, built using four used shipping containers.

It measures 448 square feet, about as much space as a typical Starbucks has behind the counter and just enough room for three baristas to work.

Shipping containers have become trendy as building material for everything from pop-up grocery stores in food deserts, like one recently tested by Seattle-based Stockbox Grocers, to houses pitched as environmentally friendly and able to grow with your budget.

Starbucks hopes to use containers for short- or long-term cafes on properties awaiting development and in areas with lots of car traffic.

They also could make sturdy temporary cafes when an existing store is closed for remodeling, said spokesman Alan Hilowitz. Starbucks expects to remodel 1,700 stores during the next year.

It is applying for LEED certification of the new store.

Practical uses aside, shipping containers carry special meaning for the coffee company.

"Our coffee and tea are shipped from their countries of origin in shipping containers, so this is kind of full circle for us," Hilowitz said.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or On Twitter @AllisonSeattle.

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