It all started innocently enough this spring, when Mark Malkoff asked a barista at 54th and Broadway how many Starbucks there were in Manhattan. She didn’t know, nor did any of the employees he asked at other locations. When he e-mailed Starbucks headquarters with the same question, they never responded. Turns out, there are 176 stores in Manhattan, but a few of those, like the one in J.P. Morgan’s headquarters, are off limits to the public. So Malkoff, a comedian who works as the audience coordinator at The Colbert Report, set out to hit all the stores he could—171 of them—in 24 hours, saving his $369.14 in receipts to prove it. He even contacted “Winter,” another obsessed fan who has vowed to visit all 12,000-plus Starbucks in the entire country, for advice. Winter (he only has one name, like Bono) told Malkoff to go for it. And so, on a recent Friday morning at 4:00 a.m., he did, with a cameraman, an intern, and a brand new Schwinn from K-Mart. The following is an account of his day.
After analyzing charts and graphs, calculating miles, and assessing store hours, I still can’t decide if I’ve found the fastest route. The only thing more frustrating is that I’m about to hit 171 Starbucks and I don’t drink coffee. All I can do now is cross my fingers.
We arrive at 181st and Washington Heights. The store is set to open at 5:30 a.m.
Most Starbucks open 10 minutes early and stay open 10 minutes late. The door is still locked. I start to sweat.
Store Count: 1
They finally open three minutes late. I chug a double shot of espresso and sprint out, jacked up on my first caffeinated drink of the day. 170 more to go.
Store Count: 4
Samantha, the barista at Broadway and 114th Street, is way too happy for 6:22 a.m. I tell her I’ll have whatever is in her Starbucks cup. She says it’s water and that she isn’t a coffee drinker, which is like being a vegan waitress at Outback Steakhouse.
Store Count: 9
Feeling dehydrated (and not happy) from the last two double espressos, I chug a $2 Ethos Water in under seven seconds.
Store Count: 12
On my trusty Schwinn, I hop the curb on Broadway and 90th and ram into a construction worker. I’m horrified, beg his forgiveness, and quickly give him my business card and promise to get him Colbert Report tickets. I also offer him a sip of my Raspberry Mocha Frappuccino. He declines.
Store Count: 28
Why the hell is there a Starbucks in the Waldorf-Astoria?
Store Count: 29
Okay! I complete my first bathroom break in under 30 seconds. At least none of the baristas can accuse me of using the bathroom without making a purchase.
Store Count: 35
The lines are too long. I swallow my pride and beg a long row of customers to allow me to cut. They let me by, but not before a cop mutters under his breath, “And I thought I didn’t have a life.”
Store Count: 41
In Times Square, I run into Whoopi Goldberg coming out of the Virgin Megastore. I worked with Whoopi on her NBC sitcom. She gives me a hug and we exchange pleasantries. I try to be polite, but I’m wasting valuable Starbucks time.
Store Count: 45
So far we’re averaging nine and a half stores per hour. I’m feeling good. Maybe too good. My bladder is about to explode and Rebecca the pregnant barista has been in there for over seven minutes. I’ll kill her.
Store Count: 46
Am I going to hit a Starbucks that isn’t playing Paul McCartney? Don’t get me wrong. I adore Sir Paul, but how about some variety?
Store Count: 59
It amuses me that there are two stores in Macy’s. I actually have to ride an escalator three floors to get to one of them. My energy is starting to dip. One of the baristas suggests one of their new sandwich products. Not bad.
Store Count: 60
I’m told by Jonathan, the cameraman and director, that my coffee breath is so lethal it could kill a newborn baby.
Store Count: 61
I have the majority of the Paul McCartney lyrics down. When a teenage barista at 33rd Street and 10th Avenue hands me my tall coffee, I ask what he thinks of the album. “Frankly, I don’t really like it. Plus I don’t know who that is.” I explain that Paul McCartney is a 25-year-old Asian-American singer who was runner-up two years ago on American Idol. “Yeah, I think I know who he is now,” he replies.