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Stars Coffee opening in Russia

MOSCOW (AP) – People in Moscow who were disappointed when Starbucks closed its coffee shops after Russia sent troops into Ukraine may now feel a caffeine jolt of hope: A nearly identical operation is opening in the capital.

The name’s almost the same: Stars Coffee. The logo could be the separated-at-birth twin of the Starbucks mermaid, with flowing hair, a small enigmatic smile and a star atop her head – though instead of a Starbucks crown she wears a Russian headdress called a kokoshnik.

The menu, judging by the company app introduced a day before the store’s formal opening yesterday, would look familiar to any Starbucks customer.

Starbucks said on Thursday it had no comment on the new stores.

Seattle-based Starbucks was one of the most visible of the wave of foreign companies that pulled out of Russia or suspended their operations in response to Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. Others include McDonald’s, IKEA and fast-fashion giant H&M.

A customer drinks coffee at a newly opened Stars Coffee in the former location of the Starbucks in Moscow, Russia. PHOTO: AP

The departure of these companies was a psychological blow to Russians who had become used to the comforts of Western-style consumer culture. But Russian entrepreneurs saw opportunity in suddenly unoccupied stores.

Former McDonald’s outlets are reopening and attracting sizable crowds under the name Vkusno – i Tochka. Though the name doesn’t roll off the tongue easily and is a little awkward to translate (roughly: It’s Tasty – Period), the menu is a testament to imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

Yunus Yusupov, a popular rap artist who uses the stage name Timati, and restaurateur Anton Pinsky partnered to buy the Starbucks assets, then took the imitation strategy a step further by giving the operation an English-language name.

At a news conference on Thursday, they vowed to re-open all the former Starbucks under their new identity and even expand the business. The United States (US) company had built its Russian operation to about 130 stores since entering the country in 2007. The stores were owned and operated by a franchisee, Alshaya Group of Kuwait.

While the close resemblance of the new operations to their predecessors could be seen as riding someone else’s inspiration and effort, the Starbucks and McDonald’s successors also fit a national-pride concept. Since Russia was walloped by sanctions and foreign pullouts, officials frequently assert that Russia will overcome by relying on its own resources and energies.

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