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Originally published March 8, 2011 at 3:28 PM | Page modified March 9, 2011 at 8:16 AM

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Starbucks celebrates turning 40 with new logo, coffee, sweets

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz reminded the hundreds of headquarters employees of "the responsibility we have together to the 200,000 people relying on us to continue building Starbucks the right way."

Seattle Times business reporter

Starbucks turns 40 later this month, and CEO Howard Schultz is not missing any opportunity to celebrate its rise from a single Seattle store to a chain that serves 60 million customers a week.

On Tuesday, he unveiled the company's new logo outside its headquarters to the applause of hundreds of employees and customers. A live band played. Schultz officially closed the day's trading at Nasdaq — after the coffee company's stock price climbed 41 cents to $34.01, not far from a 52-week high. Even the elusive sun appeared.

In two weeks, he will host Starbucks' annual shareholders meeting; and the week after that his second book — "Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul," cowritten with Joanne Gordon — will be published.

The next day, March 30, is Starbucks' 40th birthday.

Schultz reminded employees Tuesday that he is not its founder.

The company was started in 1971 across the street from Pike Place Market by Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker and Zev Siegl. Two of them — Baldwin and Bowker — went on to buy Peet's Coffee in the Bay Area, and Baldwin still sits on its board. Two of them — Bowker and Siegl — still live in Seattle.

The vision for creating a vast network of coffeehouses came from Schultz, who started working at Starbucks in 1982 as director of retail operations and marketing. He and a group of investors bought the company in 1987.

By the time it went public in 1992, Schultz told employees Tuesday, it had 125 stores and just one quarter of profitability.

"There were many doubters, many cynics who thought that Starbucks would be a West Coast phenomenon, that it would never travel East. They were wrong," he said to cheers.

Now, Starbucks has 17,000 stores in 55 countries.

Schultz talked about Starbucks losing its way, a victim of its own success and hubris, as well as experiencing the worst economic downturn since the Depression.

Through its hard times — which included the closure of 900 stores and the loss of many thousands of jobs — Starbucks never lost its values and "deep sense of humanity," he said.

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He reminded headquarters employees of "the responsibility we have together to the 200,000 people relying on us to continue building Starbucks the right way."

In celebration, Starbucks also debuted a new, limited-quantity coffee blend called Tribute, which took six months to create because it posed such a challenge, according to Andrew Linnemann, Starbucks' director of green coffee quality.

The aim was to combine Schultz's favorite coffee — aged Sumatra — with Ethiopian coffee, which also has a strong flavor and does not typically "get along with" Sumatran beans, Linnemann said. They did it by mixing those beans with lighter, brighter coffees from Colombia and Papua New Guinea, then roasting some of the coffees separately before blending.

Tribute is available in Starbucks' mini instant-coffee packets as well.

Starbucks also unveiled new sweets on Tuesday, including cakes on a stick, red velvet whoopie pies and mini cupcakes.

How does that jibe with Schultz's push for foods that promote health and wellness?

"It's not one thing versus the other," he said in an interview Tuesday. "We have a significant initiative inside the company around health and wellness. All I have to share with you is, stay tuned on that."

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com

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