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A man who has spent more than 20 years trying to visit every Starbucks on the planet recently crossed the Sydney location off his list.
Winter, who was born Rafael Antonio Lozano Jr. but legally changed his name to the single-word season, drove nearly 2,000 kilometres from Rochester, N.Y. where he works as a computer programmer, just to grab a cup of joe from the coffeehouse colossus's only Cape Breton store in late September.
A crew from Vice accompanied him and on Dec. 28 published a YouTube video documenting the trip. The video, which has more than 200,000 views, opens with Winter dashing out into the middle of Welton Street to take a photo of the shop before heading inside to grab a coffee.
“That was a lot of fun,” the 47-year-old Texas native said of his trip to Cape Breton trip.
“Cape Breton was just really, really pretty. I got to see some cool things that I hadn’t seen before. There was red sunset in Cheticamp that I don’t remember seeing that shade of red ever — that was spectacular. I saw lobster traps for the first time — that was kind of cool. And because I only had the one Starbucks to see, I was able to sit down, relax and chat with the guys. So much about Starbucking is racing to the next destination that any opportunity that I have to slow down and relax is a treasured opportunity.”
As of Dec. 31, Winter had visited 15,220 Starbucks in 56 countries. He set out on his seemingly compulsive quest in the summer of 1997 while hanging out at a Starbucks in the Dallas area. He asked a barista how many locations there were worldwide. When he was told there were about 1,500, he instantly wondered if it would be possible to visit every one.
“It was just a question in the moment, but I nonetheless started hunting down locations in the greater Dallas area,” he recalled in a telephone interview with the Post from Albany, N.Y. where he was participating in a Scrabble tournament.
Then, the next summer he took a road trip to the West Coast and began “Starbucking,” as he calls it, in earnest and never looked back.
“I took this trip and I just fell in love with the process of driving across country — the great American road trip is an American tradition that I had never bought into and all of a sudden, I was into that. I enjoyed driving around cities, just seeing what these cities looked like — Phoenix, Las Vegas, southern California. I flew up to Portland. I like puzzles. Back then I had to actually look up locations in the phone book and ask baristas about it, pull out physical maps, plot routes to find the stores. It was an incredible challenge. I fell in love with the process right away and as I kept doing it over the decades it became more and more challenging, and then the media attention started in 2002, which allowed me to meet people all over the world, so I started to make these connections, Starbucks started expanding into all these other countries and started me the excuse and motivation to go to places where I would ordinarily never go, like Jordan, or Lebanon, for example. Starbucking has been the driving force behind many of my great experiences in life.”
He now has a protégé in Germany and even has at least one famous fan in Vampire Weekend lead singer Ezra Koenig, who has had Winter on his internet radio talk show Time Crisis several times. Koenig even invited him to a Vampire Weekend concert at Madison Square Garden in New York where he got a VIP pass and got to hang out with the band in the backstage lounge after the show.
Not surprisingly, though, roaming the globe in search of every Starbucks location is pretty expensive. Winter estimates he’s spent well over $150,000 and given up about the same amount in lost wages. His mission is also becoming increasingly unattainable as Starbucks continuously expands, with more than 30,000 shops in 76 countries.
Winter, however, is undeterred, explaining that being the “Starbucks guy” is now an integral part of who he is.
“It is quite expensive but why I keep doing it is because of these things I’ve mentioned — I love travelling, I love seeing new places, I love the experiences that I have — meeting people, just random, crazy experiences like being tear-gassed in Turkey, or questioned by security personnel in Beirut. People that have been amazingly friendly and generous. I love the fans. I love the media attention and I love the experiences like the Vampire Weekend concert. But I guess if you had to pick one thing, it’s the identity. I am the Starbucks guy in the world. If there is one person recognized on the planet for Starbucks, that would be me.”