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Trading at $22.15 on Feb. 10, 2003

Starbucks(Nasdaq: SBUX), you and I go back a long way, boo. I've never felt this way about another company. We've been together now for five years, through the thickest of thick and leanest of lean times, and I think you and I both know it's a serious love connection.

Oh sure, we had that one big falling out back in 1999 and 2000 when you got all crazy on me and went looking for some Internet lovin'. But hey, sugar, I knew you'd be back. I can't say I wasn't disappointed to see you slip like that, and get all caught up in the "dot-com" this and "www" that, but you learned your lesson.

You do coffee, and that's that. And, mmm-hmm, you do it well.

Look at you now, just polishing off your first quarter of fiscal 2003. You even surprised me this time, pulling in $1 billion in sales! That's impressively ahead of last year's quarter by 25%. What kind of love potion are you slipping into those lattes, shorty?

You ain't trippin' on the earnings side of things, either. You clocked $80 million of income, beating last year's $68.4 million by 17%. And if that wasn't enough to keep me swooning and flushed, you generated close to $140 million of free cash flow during the quarter. Then you topped it off by booking a January same-store sales increase of 9%!

Now, let's be honest, Starbucks. You get a lot of flack from haters who don't even know what you're really about. They take you for a dominating, landscape-ruining, culture-homogenizing bully. They don't bother to find out about the real you, the you that makes me love you even more.

You've been named five times as one of Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For." You have a Fair Trade commitment to small coffee growers to help them sell their beans for higher than the market's going price. Your Organic Shade Grown coffee from Mexico helps farmers there maintain traditional, ecologically sound methods of production. Far from a trash-spewing monster, you're one of the most environmentally conscious and socially responsible companies around.

In fact, I'd have to argue that you do the world a great service, Starbucks. Think about all the sleepyheads who'd be bumping into walls and grousing at co-workers if it weren't for you. Awww, now, quit blushin' 'cause I mean that. The more than 22 million customers scattered across 30 countries you serve each week love you for the hot morning boost you provide them.

You're not one to sit around resting on your past success, either. No, that's just not your way. If you're not figuring out ways to speed up operations and improve the customer's experience (your Starbucks card is pure genius), you're coming up with yummy new flavors of coffee drinks. This past Christmas, it was the Peppermint line of drinks. Now, it's all about toffee coffee, with your new Toffee Nut Latte warming bellies and stretching smiles across faces.

Yeah, it's true, Starbucks. I'm hooked on you big time. From your superior performance to your innovative ideas to your responsible ways... Starbucks, you complete me.

Next: Mellon Financial »

LouAnn Lofton denies rumors that she has been asked to star in Ladies Man 2. She obviously owns shares of Starbucks.

Stocks Fools Love represents the opinion of one Fool and should in no way be taken as the opinion of either The Motley Fool, Inc. or the company in question, or as representative of anyone or anything other than that specific Fool's thoughts.

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