Before Howard Schultz founded Starbucks, he worked at a little company called, wait for it, Starbucks. Yes, I know how bizarre that sounds, but it’s true: Starbucks was actually around long before Schultz ever woke up and smelled the coffee.
Founded in 1971 by Jerry Baldwin, Gordon Bowker and Zev Siegl (pictured above), Starbucks was originally a Seattle-based coffee roaster that sold beans and equipment based on the methods of industry pioneer Alfred Peet. About ten years later, the owners hired Schultz as marketing director. That’s when things started to get weird.
After a trip to Italy, Schultz pitched the idea of expanding Starbucks into a chain of espresso bars like the popular establishments he found all over Milan. The company’s owners, however, were more interested in selling coffee beans, so Schultz quit and started a chain of espresso bars named Il Giornale.
Around the same time, Starbucks acquired Berkeley, Calif.-based Peet’s from Sal Bonavita, who had previously bought it from Alfred Peet in 1979. Baldwin and Bowker (Siegl had left the company) decided to focus solely on Peet’s, and sold the Starbucks brand and assets to Schultz in 1987.
Schultz renamed Il Giornale “Starbucks,” Baldwin and Bowker renamed Starbucks “Peet’s,” and there you have it, the bizarre origin of Starbucks, clear as mud.