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Stars: Nearly identical coffee shop chain replaces Starbucks in Moscow

Stars: Nearly identical coffee shop chain replaces Starbucks in Moscow

After Starbucks closed its stores in Moscow following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February, a close facsimile is now opening in its place.

The name — Stars Coffee — and the logo, a twin of the Starbucks mermaid wearing a Russian kokoshnik headdress instead of a crown, are practically the same. 

The menu, judging by the company app introduced a day before the store’s formal opening Friday, would look familiar to any Starbucks customer.

Seattle-based Starbucks was one of the most visible of the wave of foreign companies that pulled out of Russia or suspended their operations in response to Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. Others include McDonald’s, IKEA and fast-fashion giant H&M.

The departure of these companies was believed to have been a psychological blow to Russians who had become used to the comforts of Western-style consumer culture. But Russian entrepreneurs saw an opportunity in suddenly unoccupied stores.

Former McDonald’s outlets are reopening and attracting sizable crowds under the name Vkusno i Tochka, or It’s Tasty, Full-Stop. The menu is a testament to imitation being the most sincere form of flattery.

Yunus Yusupov, a popular rap artist who uses the stage name Timati, and restaurateur Anton Pinsky partnered to buy the Starbucks assets and took the imitation strategy a step further by giving the operation an English-language name.

At a news conference Thursday, they vowed to reopen all the former Starbucks under their new identity and even expand the business. 

The US company had built its Russian operation to about 130 stores since entering the country in 2007.

While the close resemblance of the new operations to their predecessors could be seen as a simple copy-paste of someone else’s inspiration and effort and are questionable in terms of intellectual property, the Starbucks and McDonald’s successors also fit a national-pride concept. 

Since Russia was walloped by sanctions and foreign pullouts, officials frequently assert that Russia will overcome by relying on its own resources and energies.

“Now the economic situation is difficult, but this is a time of opportunity,” Oleg Eskindarov, president of the holding company that partnered in the Starbucks deal, told the state news agency Tass. 

“For the past four months, we have been very actively looking at exiting companies following the example of Starbucks. There are several more similar examples, but we cannot talk about them yet.”

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