Moscow – People in Moscow who were disappointed when Starbucks closed their coffee shops after Russia sent its troops into Ukraine may now be shocked by the caffeine: an almost identical operation is opening in the capital.
The name is almost the same: Stars Coffee. The emblem could be the twin separated at birth of a Starbucks mermaid, with flowing hair, a mysterious little smile and a star above her head – although instead of a Starbucks crown she wears a Russian headdress called a kokoshnik.
The menu, according to the company’s application presented the day before the store’s official opening Friday, will look familiar to any Starbucks customer.
Starbucks said Thursday that it had no comment on the new stores.
Seattle-based Starbucks has been one of the most prominent wave of foreign companies to withdraw from Russia or suspend operations in response to Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. Other companies include McDonald’s, IKEA and fast fashion giant H& M.
The departure of these companies was a psychological blow to Russians accustomed to the comforts of Western-style consumer culture. But Russian entrepreneurs suddenly saw opportunity in the unoccupied shops.
Former McDonald’s outlets reopen their doors and attract large crowds under the name Vkusno – i Tochka. Although the name doesn’t roll easily on the tongue and is a bit difficult to translate (roughly: it’s delicious – period), the menu is a testament that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Yunus Yusupov, famous rap artist who uses the stage name Timati, and restaurateur Anton Pinsky co-purchased Starbucks’ assets, then took the imitation strategy a step further by giving the operation an English name.
At a press conference Thursday, they vowed to reopen all previous Starbucks with their new identity and even expand business. The American company has built its Russian operations into about 130 stores since entering the country in 2007. These stores were owned and operated by its franchisor, Kuwait’s Alshaya Group.
While the close resemblance between the new operations and their predecessors could be seen as someone else’s inspiration and effort, Starbucks and McDonald’s successors also fit the concept of national pride. Since Russia has suffered from sanctions and foreign withdrawals, officials repeatedly assert that Russia will overcome them by relying on its own resources and energies.
“Now the economic situation is difficult, but this is a time of opportunity,” Oleg Iskenderov, head of the holding company that participated in the Starbucks deal, told state news agency TASS. “Over the past four months, we’ve been very actively looking at exiting Starbucks-style companies. There are many other similar examples, but we can’t talk about them yet.”
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