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Thoughts on Disneyland & Starbucks by Mr. DAPs

Next week Starbucks will be opening on Main Street, USA at what was once the Market House and Disneyana stores. There has been lots of discussion about commercialism taking over the parks. “Walt would never have done that” or “they just keep changing things and making things worse,” has been said a lot. While at times it really is hard to watch these things we have loved at Disneyland changed, I would like to explore a couple of other perspectives today. I have mixed feelings on this whole thing but think we have to step back and take a look at the bigger picture perhaps.

The Market House and Mr. DAPs

I have frequented the Market House since 1990’s. At the time, I would come to California for the summer and visit my family. Being from Minnesota, I really didn’t know anyone in California so I would visit Disneyland frequently. I purchased an annual pass and soon discovered the free refills at Market House. This was incredibly convenient as it was an hour and a half drive home after a day at the park and coffee was a good thing. This began a tradition of the Market House being my first and last stop at Disneyland for every visit, generally on Sundays. Eventually, I moved to California and then Orange County. I never stopped visiting the Market House.

The cast members inside the Market House were absolutely wonderful. They would generally have my coffee waiting at the counter by the time I reached the front of the line. If there was nobody else in the store, we would chat for a few minutes… sometimes about life and grandkids, other times we would geek out about the newest awesome movie. The atmosphere and culture in there I absolutely loved.

This is the point let’s stop and make sure I don’t look back through just rose colored glasses. The Market House, while awesome in setting and casting, didn’t always have the best coffee. It has been subject to many jokes through the years about the coffee. Frankly, it was really hit or miss on if you would get a good cup of coffee there. It really depended on who worked. Generally, Sunday mornings/early afternoons were totally safe. Later afternoons and evenings could be an entirely story however. It was 2005 while waiting for the Parade of Dreams parade that the “cup of dirt” joke became a thing… it continued up until the Market House’s recent closure. Sadly, quite frequently there was a LOT of coffee grit in a cup of coffee. Other times it would taste burnt or over-brewed. Yes, at times the coffee was fantastic… but others it was quite the opposite. There was sadly a lack of consistency but because of the free refills the inconsistency was overlooked.

Starbucks and the Market House

On September 25, 2013 the Market House will reopen again as the Market House but with Starbucks branding and coffee. There will be a very different look with a similar feel for this new coffee house. There will be change. There won’t be the same old cast members who served the same guests coffee for years. That little piece of history will just be a happy memory now. There will be new cast members starting a new legacy for this new version of the store. There will never be “cup of dirt” coffee. There will be consistently good coffee no matter who is working. There won’t be free refills (although I think those with a Starbucks gold card should be able to get them!). There will be more coffee options available and mixed coffee drinks won’t come from a push button machine (latte fans rejoice!). There will still be lines for coffee… but they will actually have direction instead of meandering around the store and shelves…blocking everything… like so often happened when things got busy. All this to say, there will be a lot of change. But it won’t necessarily be for the worse.

The Commercialization of Main Street, USA and Disneyland

There have been a lot of gripes about the commercialization of Main Street, USA. This quite frequently is where I’ve heard something like “Walt would never have done that.” First off, I think it invites trouble the moment anyone assumes they know what Walt Disney would or wouldn’t have done. Secondly, he did do that. From the very beginning, Disneyland has had sponsors. Some of these sponsors have even been on Main Street. With the help of DAPs Magic researcher/historian Roger, we took a look at some of the sponsors through the years. I personally was surprised at just how many there have been. Here is what we found:

Main Street Sponsors

  • 1955-1970, Swift Premium Meats

    • Swift Market House
  • 1955–1957, Maxwell House Coffee House
  • 1955–1977, Main Street Flower Mart
    • A large display of plastic flowers: “The world’s finest natural flowers not grown by nature”
  • 1955–1993, Disneyland Branch of Bank of America
    • A Bank of America with three ATMs to use
  • 1955–1995, Story Book Shop
    • A book shop operated by Western Publishing
  • 1955-1970, Upjohn Pharmacy
  • 1955-1968, Wurlitzer
    • Wurlitzer Music Hall
  • 1955-1956, Hollywood-Maxwell Brassiere Co. of Los Angeles
    • The Wizard of Bras Intimate Apparel Shop, presented by the
  • 1955-Present, Coca-Cola
    • Coca Cola Refreshment Corner
  • 1960-1989, Sunkist 
    • Sunkist Citrus House
  • 1955-1994, Carnation
    • Carnation Ice Cream Parlor

This list is just some of the sponsors* that have been found on Main Street, USA through the years. Take a peek inside Main Street stores and more sponsors could be found. The point behind sharing this sponsors is to remind us that Disneyland, while a creative kingdom of Walt Disney, has also always been a business. As much as the bottom line is complained about, it won’t go away with. What we do know is [pullquote]Walt Disney valued quality[/pullquote]Walt Disney valued quality. While some people would argue that Starbucks does not have quality coffee, the lines found in the stores opening at other Disney theme parks (including Disney California Adventure) seem to tell a different story.

Disney and Starbucks Partnership

The partnership between Disney and Starbucks is a natural partnership. I remember visiting Disneyland Paris in 2008 for the first time and seeing that there was a Starbucks in the Disney Village there. It was always busy and I found myself wishing we had this in California. It was a natural partnership then and it is a natural partnership now. Disney and Starbucks are the best in their respective industries. Both are household names. Both value quality and customer service. Both strive for excellence and work to be innovators in their respective fields. Disney revolutionized the entertainment and them park industry; changing animation from cartoons to full feature animated films. Disney changed theme parks from carousels and benches to full immersive family experiences with attractions that take guests as far as the imagination can dream. Starbucks has changed coffee in the same ways. A small, medium, or large cup of coffee has become tall, grande, venti. What were once rare lattes, macchiatos, or other fancy drinks found in upscale coffee shops are now found in every town and city and are accessible to anyone. Both Disney and Starbucks are a bit more expensive than just the average for their industry. But perhaps this is because you get what you pay for.

Final Thoughts

Change is hard…. especially at Disneyland. Disneyland is the one Disney theme park that Walt Disney himself roamed. It is the one place Disney fans can go and experience what he experienced and imagine seeing Disneyland as he saw it. Every time something changes there is that sense of loss because it is now a little bit more different than what Walt Disney saw. Each change is a step further away from the Disneyland Walt Disney experienced. But we have to step back and remember, Walt Disney was always looking forward. Walt Disney was happiest when he was dreaming and imagining new and exciting things for Disneyland. So would Walt Disney have approved or disapproved of Starbucks coming to Disneyland? I really don’t know…. nobody does. What we do know is that Walt Disney valued quality and innovation. Arguments could be made either way that the new Market House fits this bill.

While this is a very big change and I’m sad to see the old Market House go, I’m also looking forward to Starbucks coffee at Disneyland. I personally have a hard time with things change but, I’m going to look forward and keep in mind that the powers that be aren’t trying to ruin Disney and Disneyland. They are doing what they think is best to keep Disney and Disneyland the very best company and theme park they can. If successful, Disneyland will be around for a very long time. If they fail, then Starbucks coming to the Market House really won’t matter anyway… I don’t think this will happen though. Bob Iger, Tom Staggs, and their teams are really smart business people. I may not agree with everything they do but.. most of it I do. I love Cars Land. I love Buena Vista Street. I love the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. Overall, things at Disney are headed in the right direction. And at the end of the day, Starbucks will be on Main Street, USA on September 25 and it will be ok.

*other Disneyland sponsors through the years: 

  • Richfield
  • TWA
  • Kodak
  • Fritos
  • Monsanto
  • Pendelton
  • Pepsi
  • Aunt Jemima’s
  • Santa Fe
  • Timex
  • Chicken of the Sea
  • Western Printing and Litho
  • Town Square Realty
  • Kaiser Aluminum
  • Ruggles China & Glass Shop
  • Grandma s Baby Shop
  • Sunny View Farms Jellies & Jams
  • Blue Bird Shoes for Children
  • McDonalds
  • Ellen s Gift Shop
  • Gibson Greeting Cards
  • Jewelry Store, Random Parts Inc
  • Wonderland Music
  • Bekins
  • Dutch Boy Paints
  • Puffin Bakery



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