Dumb Starbucks, a parody store located in a Los Angeles strip mall, opened its doors on February 7th, 2014. From the sign up front, to the cd’s next to the cash register, everything had original Starbucks branding except for the fact that the word dumb was printed in front of each and every SB logo.
The author of DS was unknown until earlier this week, when comedian Nathan Fielder held a press conference at the parody store revealing that he was responsible. Until then, Conceptual artist Marc Horowitz was taking credit for it on Twitter:
“Would love to do interviews about #dumbstarbucks — just waiting for @TODAYshow or @jimmykimmel” as well as “my project is causing quite a stir – lol.”
After the mystery was solved, Nathan Fielder released a video in the Dumb Starbucks youtube channel that assured his newfound ‘customers’ that DS was “no joke, this is a real business,” a business, he says,”from which I plan to get rich from.” The serious sounding Fielder, assures that he can keep it going, however, yesterday (February 10th, 2014) the city of Los Angeles closed the place down due to a lack of health permits. It is hard to believe that that was the only reason for the shutdown , as the real Starbucks was not happy with the parody coffee shop calling itself Dumb Starbucks.
“We appreciate the humor but they can’t use our name,” Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson told CNNMoney. “It’s a protected trademark. It’s our trademark.”
The curious case of Dumb Starbucks puzzled many; some say it was a publicity stunt, some only showed up to get good instagram pics, and others read it as a boycott, a relational, functional piece of artwork that ridiculed american consumerism. Whatever it was, Fielder’s advances were truly embraced by everyone who came by the store. Apart from a devoted youtube channel, the ‘chain’ also communicated via twitter and instagram; both social platforms played key roles in informing the public of its grand opening and its development thereafter.
It has been said (here) that the Comedy Central comedian set up the store as part of a backdrop for a Comedy Central television show, Nathan For You. This is not clear yet, as the true ‘meaning’ for Dumb Starbucks’ existence is still to be clarified.
If mass attention was Fielder’s main reason for doing this,then he surely must be happy by now. More than thousands of news sites covered the story, and more than 10k followers are keeping up with the development of DS through both instagram (@dumbstarbucks) and twitter combined. Now, the question is, what was Fielder trying to do with this project? Was it truly a CC backdrop, was it an elaborate corporate stunt, or was it a art performance piece?
To many, myself included, the project’s core lies parallel to that of Claes Oldergurg’s Store, or Andy Wathol’s factory. They all share the ability to perform as a mundane public facility, yet simultaneously represent the epitome of consumerism and mass media in a subversive way.
Fielder’s edge, social media platforms, helped him developed a narrative that produced something beyond belief. In just 24 hours DS became a part of history, it has left its marks on almost every national news site and it has created comical, scandalous and thought provoking dialogues amongst observes, reporters, and corporate heads.
Hell, even those whom participated in the grand opening are taking advantage of this. They are now selling used Dumb Starbucks coffee cups for $50 a pop on ebay.