Think back. To before the planet groaned with 17,000 Starbucks shops. Before the pumpkin spice lattes and the Ciao Amore CDs. Before the Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino ice cream, the Starbucks cream liqueur, the Pinkberry-inspired Sorbetto.
In short, to before Howard D. Schultz and his trenta-size ambition turned a few coffeehouses here into the vast corporate Empire of the Bean.
The world has often seemed three espressos behind Mr. Schultz — which is why the low-key guy sitting in his office here doesn’t quite seem like Howard Schultz.
Did he just say “but”? As in, “We have won in many ways, but ...”? Was that a “we” instead of an “I”? A note of humility?
Yes, this is Howard Schultz: the man who willed Starbucks onto so many street corners — and then, for a moment, looked as if he might lose it all.