Whatever Happened To ... Starbucks Guy?
The first thing he wants to make clear: His name is Winter now -- just Winter. "I don't tell people the whole story about my other names, and without the background they're just going to get it wrong," the 37-year-old says. When Bill Donohue profiled the then-legally named John Winter Smith in August 2004, Winter was seven years into an obsessive quest to visit every Starbucks coffee shop in the world. The Houston native, who was born Rafael Antonio Lozano and finances his "Starbucking" with computer programming contracts, had been to 3,800 Starbucks shops in the United States and 455 overseas. "I have the collecting mentality," Winter told Donohue. He also acknowledged, "I like attention."
Five years and more than 6,000 stores later, Winter, aided by the recession and store closures, says he is close to "collecting" 100 percent of the currently open stores in the United States. As of press time, he had fewer than 25 to go but needed to hit the remaining locations before a new store opened in Arizona. When we caught up with him by phone, he was en route to Montana after visiting two stores in Boise, Idaho, and was musing over a "philosophical issue": whether to count an upcoming visit to a store in Seattle, which is owned by Starbucks but branded 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea. (He decided to count it.)
Donahue's Magazine story chronicled Winter's lonely existence and unlikely romance with a woman named Jodi Morgan, who had contacted Winter after reading his blog. The article inspired a 2006 documentary film titled "Starbucking," which Winter calls "the single most fascinating and fun thing" to come out of his quest. After Winter's relationship with Jodi ended in 2005, there were a couple of other girlfriends, but he doesn't have one at this point. Winter says he doesn't mind. "Even before Starbucking, I wasn't the type of person to make close relationships," he says. "And all the traveling makes it difficult."
Winter plans to keep Starbucking indefinitely, though he anticipates that he'll eventually have more time for other pursuits. "I could actually get back to hanging out at Starbucks," Winter says. "I used to do that for hours. Then I started Starbucking, and I had no more time to hang out at Starbucks anymore."