Howard Schultz, Coffee czar: Original Starbucks fans complain that he turned a coffee connoisseur’s store into a “purveyor of flavored milk.” But now he’s upping product quality with Starbucks Reserve Roasteries, where even the food is tops. He gave Seattle and the world a chance to order coffee in a gazillion different ways, and created the “third place.” No mere billionaire, he’s an innovator in labor relations, music and race relations. (His “Race Together” campaign failed, but how many billionaires even tried?)
Food and Beverage
Ted Baseler, CEO and president, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates: Helped establish Washington as a world-class wine destination through his own company’s offerings and by serving as a statewide industry champion, including helping build an enology and viticulture program at Washington State University.
Tom Douglas, restaurateur and James Beard Award–winning chef: A game changer of the Seattle dining scene with his 1989 opening of Dahlia Lounge, the flagship of his growing culinary community, which is as much about commitment to values as it is dedication to good food.
Fran Bigelow, founder of Fran’s Chocolates: Visionary leader of the U.S. artisan chocolate renaissance, whose commitment to the finest ingredients and exquisite packaging make her chocolates as de rigueur a Seattle souvenir as salmon.
Charles and Rose Ann Finkel, Pike Brewing Company: European travels and a love for Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market inspired this couple to open a craft beer company in 1989, opening up a world of flavor for brew fans and paving the way for the microbrewery explosion.
Chris Curtis, director, Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance: More than 20 years ago, Curtis launched a grassroots revolution and alliance between Seattle consumers and the region’s small farm businesses, changing the way we shop for and experience food, and giving new resonance to the term “seasonal produce.”
Gene Juarez, founder, Gene Juarez Salons & Spas: The hair design maven founded his company in 1971 (he sold it in 2006) and developed a chain of salons and spas in the region, raising the hair-care bar and transforming the beauty biz in Seattle.
Jonathan Poneman, cofounder, Sub Pop Records: Sub Pop made Seattle the epicenter of the “grunge” music scene in the 1980s and remains a champion of independent music while retaining its irreverent spirit.
Clarence Acox, director, Garfield High School jazz band: For nearly half a century, this jazz musician, voted Educator of the Year by Downbeat, has inspired his students to create award-winning performances in venues around the U.S. and in Europe.
Speight Jenkins, former director, Seattle Opera: Nationally renowned opera authority who rejuvenated the Seattle stage with innovative productions, including all of Wagner’s major operas, most famously the Ring cycle.
Krist Novoselic, musician/civic activist: Former Nirvana bass guitarist who has played a civic tune, creating the Joint Artists and Music Promotions Political Action Committee to fight against the city’s Teen Dance Ordinance and laws limiting minors’ access to concerts, and advocating for electoral reform.
Dennis Coleman, former artistic director, Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus: Led the world’s largest gay men’s chorus for 35 years and helped create its sister organization, resulting in the largest community chorus organization in North America and the world’s largest LGBT community chorus.
Arts and Culture
Linda Hartzell, former artistic director, Seattle Children’s Theatre: Transformed the small, mostly volunteer company into one of the country’s most innovative and inventive performance and education programs for kids.
Barbara Earl Thomas, celebrated visual artist, author and influential city arts administrator: Thomas helped to bring about the founding and curation of the Northwest African American Museum, safeguarding the diversity of Seattle’s cultural arts and heritage.
Dale Chihuly, glass artist: Pilchuck Glass School founder who elevated glass art from a craft to a highly acclaimed fine art. His work, exhibited internationally and sprinkled throughout the city, is showcased at Chihuly Garden and Glass at Seattle Center.
Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, founding artistic directors, Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB): Shaped the Pacific Northwest Ballet School, collaborated with artist/designer Maurice Sendak to produce PNB’s iconic Nutcracker, and established PNB as one of the country’s leading professional ballet companies.
Buster Simpson, prolific eco-artist and urban environmentalism pioneer: Rebelliously dedicated to creating art in the public sphere for more than four decades, Simpson has been a key player in establishing Seattle as a center for community-minded artistic practice, and today has a central role in the redesign of the new Elliott Bay Seawall.
Ken and Marleen Alhadeff, arts supporters: These producing partners of The 5th Avenue Theatre launch new musicals through their company, Junkyard Dog Productions, including the Tony Award–winning Memphis and Come from Away, opening soon on Broadway.
Ron Chew, director, Wing Luke Asian Museum: Chew, a self-taught curator who pioneered the concept of community-based museums, turned the formerly rundown Wing Luke museum into a nationally acclaimed institution for Asian history and culture.
Linda Derschang, founder of The Derschang Group: Capitol Hill’s undisputed arbiter of cool has had an indelible impact on the city’s bar and nightlife scene, beginning more than 20 years ago with the opening of Linda’s Tavern and including Cap Hill staples Smith, Oddfellows Cafe & Bar, Bait Shop and Tallulah’s.
Gary Groth, editor and critic, Fantagraphics cofounder/publisher and comic novel antihero: Pow! Bam! Zowie! Groth favors out-of-the-ordinary comic book characters (like Batman), alternative topics and underground graphic novels. He busted the formulaic pattern and practices of traditional comic publishers.
Norman Langill, Emmy Award winner, creator of One Reel (producer of Bumbershoot) and cabaret magic maker: The founder and artistic director of Teatro ZinZanni likes to fuel imaginations. Langill’s creative troupe of performers continues to offer Seattle audiences an original take on the performing arts.
Sherman Alexie, author and lecturer: Alexie blends pop-culture wit with surprising humor to reveal the mordant side of the First American experience through his poetry, short stories and award-winning novels. Born on the Spokane Reservation in Wellpinit, he has been a Seattle urban Indian since 1994. Here, he continues to challenge the status quo of “the corn-pollen, four directions, eagle-feathers school of Native literature,” as he once said in an Atlantic interview.
Nancy Pearl, librarian and homegrown action figure: After leaving the Seattle Public Library, where she established the “If All of Seattle Read the Same Book” program (which spread across the country), Pearl extended her literary influence as the best-selling author of Book Lust, and as a popular literary critic and National Public Radio’s go-to books guru. She gives books their due.
Deborah Jacobs, global librarian and charismatic change agent: As head of the Seattle Public Library, Jacobs put the city libraries on the map by shepherding the makeover of the Seattle Public Library system and the neighborhood branches, including the Rem Koolhaas–designed central library. Now, as global libraries director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Jacobs has broadened her scope in creating access to information.
Rick Simonson, literary curator, juror and event planner: Simonson has been with the Elliott Bay Book Company since 1976, and as the bookstore’s senior buyer and codirector of its celebrated reading series, the voracious reader has literally brought the world’s authors to Seattle.