Gordon Bowker

Gordon Bowker

An American businessman and entrepreneur most well known for being a founder of Starbucks.

Gordon Bowker is an American writer, businessman and entrepreneur most well known for being the founder of Starbucks.



Prior to founding Starbucks, Bowker was a freelance writer who moved to Seattle after college at the University of San Francisco. One of Bowker's Starbucks co-founders, Jerry Baldwin, was his college roommate. Bowker met Zev Siegl in 1962. Siegl had posted on a bulletin board that he was driving from Seattle to New York City by way of San Francisco, and Baldwin joined for the ride. In San Francisco, Bowker introduced Siegl to Baldwin and the three became friends.

Starting in 1969, Bowker drove from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. to purchase coffee beans from Murchie's, a tea and coffee supplier. He would start making monthly trips to Canada to purchase coffee for himself, as well as friends who placed orders with him. This prompted Bowker to start thinking about opening a coffee company in Seattle.

Working with friends Siegl and Baldwin, Bowker formed a business relationship with a Berkeley, California-based gourmet coffee company, Peet's. Siegl was the first to make contact with Peet's owner and founder, Alfred Peet, in 1970. Peet agreed to be the first coffee supplier to Bowker, Siegl, and Baldwin's new coffee business.

On March 21, 1971 Starbucks opened its first location at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington. Bowker is credited with giving Starbucks its name, which he named after a coffee loving character in Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick. Bowker and Baldwin had previously tried and failed to launch an educational documentary film company called Pequod, named after the ship in Moby Dick.

After opening a few Starbucks in Seattle, Bowker and the other two founders hired Howard Schultz to help the company with its marketing strategy. Bowker took Howard Schultz to Italy to experience their coffee culture, and afterwards Howard Schultz left Starbucks to start his own coffee shop. A couple years after starting his own coffee shop, Howard Schultz purchased Starbucks from Bowker, Baldwin, and Siegel.

Redhook Ale Brewery

In 1980, Bowker co-founded Redhook Ale Brewing with Paul Shipman, who he met while working with the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery. Redhook Brewery poured its first beer in 1982.


University of San Francisco

Gordon Bowker attended the university of San Francisco, but would later drop out to go backpacking through Europe. He never re-enrolled at the University of San Francisco to complete his undergraduate degree.




Further reading


How Starbucks Was Born Half A Century Ago

Ronald Holden


December 12, 2017

Starbucks: The Early Years

Sheila Farr


February 2017

Documentaries, videos and podcasts





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