At a grand presentation in downtown Moscow, rapper Timati unveiled a new brand featuring a woman with a star above her head alongside co-owner and restaurateur Anton Pinsky ahead of the shops opening on Friday.
“People’s perceptions can be different,” Pinsky said. “But if you compare, then, except for the circle, you will not find anything in common.”
Starbucks declined to comment on the similarity between the logo and the name, but cited an earlier statement that said the company had made the decision to exit and was no longer represented in the Russian market.
Since Starbucks had its own resource and production base, Timati said the duo had to look for new suppliers, but they had no problems.
Pinsky said Stars Coffee imports beans from Latin America and Africa, while suppliers of other goods are based in Russia.
“We just found other vendors, found the right roasters, and because the baristas mixed everything right, we have a product that we think will be competitive,” he said.
Seattle-based Starbucks, which helped popularize takeaway coffee in the traditionally tea-loving society, said it would leave Russia at the end of May after nearly 15 years.
Starbucks had 130 stores in Russia, operated by licensee Alshaya Group, employing approximately 2,000 people. Pinsky said the stores would gradually reopen throughout August and September.
Kuwait-based global franchise operator Alshaya lost interest in doing business after Starbucks pulled its brand from Russia, Timati told Reuters. Alshaya did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We won the tender – there were many participants – we acquired and made our own brand,” he said.
The deal reflects a broader trend among Western brands that is changing the country’s retail and corporate landscape as the conflict in Ukraine enters its sixth month.
Both of those deals included a buyback option, but Pinsky said that was not the case for Starbucks because of the franchise model the company operates in Russia.
He declined to disclose figures from the Alshaya deal. “We invested as much as we paid,” Pinsky said. “It’s an expensive pleasure.”
The couple said they were interested in further acquisitions, but did not provide any further details.
While a partnership may seem unlikely, Timati, one of Russia’s most famous rappers, co-founded the Black Star Burger chain in Russia, which sells Timati Burger.
He is also known for his support of the Kremlin and released a track in 2015 containing the words “President Putin is my best friend.”
Pinsky, who earlier this month told Russian reporter and political activist Ksenia Sobchak that he had never tasted coffee in his life, has a number of restaurants in his portfolio, including a REDBOX joint project with Timati that serves pan-Asian cuisine.