Where we live

Michael Holahan/Staff
Winter sits outside the Starbucks Coffee shop on Washington Road in Evans. The computer programmer has a goal of visiting every Starbucks location in the world, and sees no end in sight thanks to the company's constant growth. Winter, whose day job is as an itinerate computer programmer, is the subject of a documentary expected to be released in April.

A random idea can be a powerful thing.

 

Nobody knows that better than a 34-year-old who calls himself Winter.

It all started in 1997, when the idea of visiting every (yes, every) corporate-owned Starbucks Coffee shop on the planet first percolated in Winter's admittedly "highly caffeinated" mind.

The Starbucks people won't say, but Winter estimates that there are now more than 8,500 locations worldwide.

"It could have been something else, but Starbucks happened to be the coffee shop on the way to work," he said during a recent stop at the new Starbucks at the Mullins Crossing Shopping Center in Evans.

"It's just an idea that popped into my head and I saw it as an opportunity to do something nobody else was doing."

The task seemed manageable in the beginning.

"There were only about 1,500 locations when I started," he said. "Had there been 40,000 I might not have tackled it."

Winter calls his quest the "Starbucks Project." His most recent trip began Dec. 22 and ended Jan. 10. It included stops in 14 states across the south and west.

Through the years he has visited locations in 49 states, Canada, England, Japan, France, Spain, Mexico, Hong Kong and Taiwan. In 2006 alone he visited 1,035 locations. Since 1997, he has visited more than 6,600 stores, and his highest coffee intake in one day stands at 26 sample cups at four ounces each and three shots of espresso. He doesn't recommend doing this.

At each location, Winter follows the same routine. He begins by introducing himself to the barista and talks about his project. His self-imposed rules dictate that he must drink at least a 4-ounce sample cup of caffeinated coffee.

Next, he takes a photo of the outside of the store and promptly uploads it to his Web page www.starbuckseverywhere.net, along with a daily blog and statistics chronicling his trek.

No, he isn't on the Starbucks payroll, and he bristles at the notion that he is the Jared-equivalent (a spokesman for Subway restaurants) of Starbucks.

"Promoting Starbucks is something I am absolutely not interested in," he said. "It would corrupt the artistic integrity of what I want to do."

And art is what he hopes others will see in his efforts. The Web site, the blog, the photos, the entire experience of the Starbucks Project are Winter's masterpiece.

"I aspire to be considered art by somebody else," he said. "I hope that somebody will judge what I do art."

And what good is art if nobody sees it? Winter doesn't shy away from anyone who is interested in his project.

"I enjoy the attention I'm getting and the opportunities that I wouldn't otherwise have - like the opportunity to be in a movie."

Yes, he's the subject of a movie. On April 24, the documentary film Starbucking, which the producers call "the true story of one man's highly caffeinated journey," will be released.

Winter's journey began as a youth in the Houston area trying to win his father's esteem.

"That's probably why I seek attention, in part, because I never got any approval from my father," he said. "No matter what kind of grades I got or no matter what I did."

The Starbucks Project hasn't helped.

"My father thinks it's a waste of time," he said.

His mother is more supportive but worries that he is spending too much money.

Winter supports himself working as an itinerate computer programmer, taking various contract jobs around the country.

Occasionally, he'll get a donation to his Web site.

To save money, he sleeps in his car while on his Starbucks jaunts.

"I used to, and still do, collect comic books. But now my primary collection is Starbucks," he said. "This is pretty hard."

It may be hard, but he has no plans to stop anytime soon, or ever for that matter. He envisions no last call, and given Starbucks' aggressive growth rate, Winter's caffeinated adventure likely will continue for some time.

Plus, Winter says he's certain to return to Augusta to visit a new store being built on Wrightsboro Road.

"There's definitely an obsessive component to my project, but there's kind of an obsessive component to any type collecting," he said.

"The journey is part of it, but with regards to collecting there's a certain satisfaction with having everything in a sequence."

"I think of it, in a way, as like extreme collecting."