It's time for Howard's Illustrated Economics.
This morning, Starbucks invades Italy.
Starbucks was founded in 1971.
We were still in Vietnam then.
Elton John's only hit was "Your Song."
It caught on nationwide in the 1990s.
Today, Starbucks has 23,000 locations, half in the U.S., half overseas.
No one remembers Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl and Gordon Bowker, the three founders of the first Seattle coffee shop. We instead remember Howard Schulz, their employee, who bought the six-shop company in 1987 when it had just started selling beverages, not just beans.
Schultz, a truck driver's son who is now a billionaire, visited Milan in the 1980s and was struck by the fact that there was a coffee bar on every street. He learned Italy had 200,000 coffee shops. This was his inspiration for today's Starbucks. But only now is Starbucks expanding into Italy.
The response is skeptical. One woman tweeted: "Altrove lo evito come i McDonald's e repulsionre alimentare non ideological!" I think this means she is comparing Starbucks to McDonald's, intending this as a slur. But you know what? Many Italians already drink something they call, Café Americaine.