It's the birthday of the man who brought Starbucks to street corners everywhere — Howard Schultz, born in Brooklyn, New York (1953), and raised there in federally subsidized housing projects. His dad earned a living driving taxis and trucks, and his mom worked as a receptionist. Schultz remembers that his father worked hard and yet was unable still to provide a comfortable life or even essentials like health care for his family, and the memory of his father's frustration and low self-esteem, and the unfairness of the situation, was a driving motivation for Schultz's progressive business practices when he founded Starbucks.

He graduated from college, the first in his family to do so, then went to work for the Xerox Corporation in the sales and marketing department. He was then recruited by a Swedish housewares company that sold coffee-making equipment to Starbucks, a client in Seattle that roasted and sold beans in bulk at 11 retail stores and through mail order.

On a vacation to Italy in 1983 he had an epiphany. Sitting at an espresso bar in Milan, he realized that their strong fresh brewed coffee was an integral part of people's daily lives, that the coffeehouse was a third place for people after home and work. He decided that this could happen in Seattle.

He tried to encourage his business partners back home to start an operation like this, but they were not convinced of its profitability. So he left the company and started his own chain of espresso bars based in Seattle and called them Il Giornale. When his old company Starbucks was up for sale in 1987, he eagerly bought the chain and merged the stores with his own.

He decided that with his new company he would place an emphasis on customer service. "Service is a lost art in America. … It's not viewed as a professional job to work behind a counter," he once said. "We don't believe that. We want to provide our people with dignity and self-esteem, so we offer tangible benefits." The company trains new "partners," as the baristas are called, for eight to 12 weeks and provides health insurance, dental, and eye care even for part-time employees. Schultz proudly cites his company's low attrition rate, in comparison to similar businesses, as an indication of his employees' sense of satisfaction. The average "partner" age is between 24 and 25.

Starbucks ventured into the entertainment industry over the past several years. Schultz said, "In a way [customers are] relying on us to provide them with an opportunity to discover things that they, perhaps, would not have discovered on their own, either because they weren't looking for it or they're no longer in the habit of going to those stores." The store in 2004 released Ray Charles's "Genius Loves Company," which was a best-selling album. Starbucks' Hear Music record label had Paul McCartney as its first signed artist. The store has also had three books that became New York Times No. 1 best sellers.

Starbucks now has some 16,000 stores in 45 countries.

sorry~ but I just love, love, love the idea of driving up to a window and getting any coffee product that doesn't smell like the filter basket has never been cleaned! starbucks is the only place that consistently serves great coffee. IMHO!

my fav thing to order is an iced triple tall (that's a small) espresso mocha without whip. that's my treat to myself. usually it's just coffee or iced coffee.

what's your fav?