He’s a man on a caffeine-fuelled mission.
He goes by one name — Winter — and his goal is to visit every Starbucks coffee shop in the world.
A stop at the Regent Mall Starbucks in Fredericton [Canada] on Thursday morning brought the 36-year-old computer programmer from Houston, Texas, a step closer to that target.
It’s the latest leg of a challenge that has taken him to almost 8,700 stores in 18 countries.
“I have been starbucking for 3 1/2 months solid,” he said. “That’s a long time to do the same thing over and over again every day. There are moments of tedium.”
Winter — that’s his only legal name now — works on contract so he can free himself up for four months a year. He has visited as many as 29 Starbucks locations in one day. His coffee quest has made him the focus of a documentary film.
“Few people have the work flexibility to do what I do. I’m lucky,” he said.
When he took up the challenge in 1997, 2,000 stores were projected by the year 2000. He hung out at his local Starbucks, and at the time, it seemed like a realistic goal. The chain has mushroomed to more than 16,000 locations in 10 years.
Winter has limited his goal to the more than 12,000 corporately owned stores. That’s why he skipped a visit to Starbucks at a Chapters book store in Fredericton.
He has a coffee at each, usually a sample-size cup of the house blend, snaps some photos, then he’s off to the next Starbucks.
“I’m like a comic-book collector,” he said with his camera in hand. “I’m motivated to collect them all.”
It’s a chance to experience the world one cup of coffee at a time.
Winter’s obsession leaves those who meet him a little awed.
“I thought he was an interesting fellow. It certainly sounds unique and interesting,” said David O’Neill, manager of a Starbucks kiosk in Fredericton.
Winter’s favourite Starbucks is in London’s Camden district.
“It’s in an old lock-keeper’s cottage along a canal,” he said, adding it does a good job linking the past and present.
He travelled to Ireland, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey last spring.
He visited southern Ontario locations Monday and Tuesday, was in Montreal and Quebec City on Wednesday and slept in the back of his Honda Fit before heading to Fredericton early Thursday morning. He tries to do it all on the cheap.
He is cutting his Maritime tour short, though; he visited Saint John and skipped Moncton and Nova Scotia to indulge his other passion — Scrabble.
He’d already paid a $750-entry fee for a major tournament, which begins Friday night in New York.
“There’s more to me than just Starbucks,” Winter said.
Winter has no ties to Starbucks. In fact, he occasionally rails against the chain’s staff on his blog, which includes photos of stores he’s visited.
He isn’t surprised by news the chain is making cuts. He thinks it expanded too quickly.
“I think they lost a lot of their trendiness by becoming ubiquitous.”
He’s only seen 250 of the 600 locations in the United Kingdom, and another 100 are slated for opening. He spent $1,000 to visit the stores in Hawaii, $500 to get to Anchorage, Alaska, and he’s still waiting to travel to Canada’s North.
“It’s going to be expensive to get to the two stores in the Yukon,” he said. “I can’t really finish as long as they’re opening new stores.”
For all his obsession with Starbucks, he also likes to indulge in Canada’s omnipresent coffee shop.
“A stop at Tim Hortons is obligatory for me on any trip to Canada,” he said.