ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As a crowd gathered for a peek inside the city’s newest Starbucks on Monday morning, a pair of young women sat down at a table and surveyed their surroundings.
“This place,” one said to the other, “is so big.”
In a sea of new Starbucks cropping up around Albuquerque, the just-opened cafe along 12th Street has the distinction of being the largest. In fact, at almost 5,000 square feet with the patio, it is the biggest Starbucks anywhere in New Mexico, according to the project’s developers. It can seat an estimated 175, including about 75 outside and up to 14 in its community room.
But sheer size is just one of the cafe’s distinguishing features. It is also the only stand-alone Starbucks licensed to a Native American-owned company in the country — it is locally owned and operated by New Mexico’s 19 pueblos and sits on what was once the Albuquerque Indian School grounds near Interstate 40.
So though it bears one of the world’s most recognizable brand names, it doesn’t look like the other 23,000-plus Starbucks around the world. It features two kiva fireplaces, a wall of historic pueblo photographs and commissioned artwork like a painting from Laguna’s Marla Allison and a series of hand-crafted pieces of pottery designed in the shape of a Starbucks travel mug.
“Art is central to pueblo life,” said Dwayne Virgint, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Indian Pueblos Marketing Inc., the pueblo-owned corporation behind the development. “It’s part of what makes us a unique Starbucks.”
But it’s still a Starbucks, and Virgint said the pueblo corporation will try to stay at the forefront of any corporate trends. He said it has asked to be among the test stores when Starbucks ultimately decides to roll out beer and wine sales in New Mexico, as it has done in other states.
The cafe’s grand opening, celebrated Monday with native dancing and a ribbon-cutting, marks what officials say will be a new wave of commercial activity at the site. Michael Canfield, the pueblo corporation’s president and CEO, said it is the first of three new buildings planned for this phase of development. The corporation wants brewpubs, restaurants and other retail businesses to fill out the approximately 3-acre parcel, and Canfield said it’s closing in on a deal with the next tenant.
“We’re working with a group that wants to come in. We’re not allowed to (reveal) the name, but we’re very excited about our next project,” he said. “We think we can come to some sort of agreement in the next 60 days or so.”