Howard Schultz is not a household name to most North Americans, but those living in urban or suburban communities know his company: the specialty coffee retailer Starbucks. In the span of a decade, Starbucks has grown into the largest coffee roaster and retailer of specialty coffee in North America. By 2000, its coffee houses could be found in more than 2 , 600 locations worldwide; even President Bill Clinton has been photographed with a Starbucks to-go container in his hand. According to Newsweek, Schultz's merging with the three Cs-coffee, commerce and community-surely ranks as one of the '90s greatest retail successes'.
Schultz was born in 1953 and grew up in the federally subsidized Canarsie housing project in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. His mother worked as a receptionist, and his father held a variety of jobs, none of which offered decent pay or medical insurance. When "Howie" was seven, his father lost his job as a driver for a diaper service when he broke his ankle. In the ensuing months, the family was literally too poor to put food on the table. It was a memory that Schultz would carry with him into adulthood.