Erik Neu gives us a concise explanation of how the founders chose the name:
Moby Dick was indeed a book beloved of one of the Starbucks founders. He proposed naming the company Pequod, after the ship. "Pee-quod" was nixed by his partners, and they cast about for a name with some local flavor (local to Seattle, Washington). They came upon the name Starbo, from an old mining camp on Mt. Rainier, and liked it. Then the Moby Dick fan drew a phonetic connection between "Starbo" and the novel--the Pequod's First Mate named Starbuck. And Starbucks it was.Contrary to popular myth, Starbuck was not a known coffee-lover.