As a group of college students in their 20s wandered through Gyeongdong Market on the afternoon of the 21st, looking at their cell phones, vendors pointed to one side and gave them directions.
Starbucks Gyeongdong 1960, which opened last November in the heart of Gyeongdong Market in Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, has become a must-visit “hot spot” among MZers (Millennials + Generation Z) in the half a year since it opened. It was renovated from a former theater and has a unique interior that has gone viral on social media, with an average of more than 1,500 customers a day on weekdays and an average of 2,500 to more than 3,000 customers on weekends. Even though it is about 363 square meters and has more than 200 seats, customers sometimes have to wait for more than an hour on weekends to find a seat.
Even on this weekend, the silent ‘battle for seats’ between customers continued throughout the afternoon. The most popular seats are at the top of the central staircase overlooking the entire store, and the opera theater-like seating along one wall on the second floor.
A small stage at the front of the store hosts cultural performances every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for 30 minutes from 6 p.m. Guitarist Lee Do-hyun and vocalist Lee Yerim performed a romantic jazz concert to soothe the last night of the weekend. Most customers closed their eyes and listened to the music, and young people were often spotted taking pictures with the stage in the background.
Customers are crowded at Starbucks Gyeongdong 1960 in Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, on the afternoon of Nov. 21. Photo by Hye-won Moon
Since Starbucks Gyeongdong 1960 is located in a traditional market, it attracts a wide range of customers, including elderly people, middle-aged people who reminisce about their youth thanks to the retro-style interior and various exhibits, and young children. The atmosphere of the traditional market has been revitalized thanks to the store, and it has been noted as a win-win case between a large company and a traditional market.
The number of foreign tourists has also increased. As the influx of foreign tourists increased during the pandemic, foreign tourists also visited the store, tasting Starbucks’ signature drinks and bakery products that can only be found in Korea and often buying MD products such as tumblers and mugs.
Starbucks Gyeongdong 1960 was remodeled into a cafe using the interior of the Gyeongdong Theater, which was built in the 1960s. It is characterized by its grandeur and comfort by incorporating the sensibility of the old theater. The high steel ceiling and wooden structure come together, and retro lighting fixtures are placed in various places to create a subtle atmosphere.
Customers play games at the Geumsung Amusement Room in the ‘Mood Refreshment Corner’ connected to the 1960 store of Starbucks Gyeongdong스포츠토토 in Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, on Nov. 21. Photo by Moon Hye-won
As the largest Starbucks store in the country, it is quite difficult for staff to call out to customers when the order menu comes out, so it is unusual that the order number is displayed on both walls using a beam projector. Just like the end credits at the end of a movie, your order number or nickname is displayed in bright letters when the menu comes up.
Once you’ve filled up on drinks and baked goods, you can go to the back door in the center of the store to enjoy various experience spaces. For example, the Geumsung Amusement Room in the ‘Refreshment Corner’ is a place where you can play arcade games on a large, vivid screen made of LG OLED, which is a great place to pass the time, especially for customers with small children.