Saturday, April 19, 2008

Starbucks vs. independent coffeehouses

I still miss Don's. Yeah, I know the place has been gone a while, but there's nowhere else in the neighborhood that comes close for unique atmosphere and a fun, funky place to hang out. Here's an interesting take on how Starbucks affects the independents in neighborhoods.


The North Coast said...

I miss Don's place on Jarvis, too, but his departure was not due to Starbucks, but to the fact that the neighborhood at that time just did not support a coffee house, or at least not well enough to provide a decent living.

However, Starbucks has used its corporate leverage to deliberately drive other operations out of business.Do you remember Scenes, on Clark near Belmont? This place opened in 1987, and was a regular haunt of mine. The atmosphere and decor were great, with a great theme that included merchandise and books related to theatre. The owner was making an acceptable living off the place.

However, the corner storefront next door, a big space that had once housed a liquor store, had been vacant for years and the building's ownership was desperate to get it leased, especially to a quality tenant. Most really small, struggling businesses are not exactly "quality tenants". Starbucks said they wanted the space but would take it only if Scenes would go. So Scenes' owner was informed that his lease would not be renewed when it expired a few months hence. He was unable to find a comparable space in the area for a reasonable rent, and he said he really didn't have the energy to start all over in another area.

It's too bad about Scenes, which was an altogether excellent place- unique, good beverages, great snacks (like the brie-and-fruit plate), and wonderful service, and we can blame Starbuck's corporate rapacity.

However, that being said, many other small, independent coffee houses deserved to get crushed by Starbucks and Caribou. Do you remember Voltaire's on Clark? These folks developed a big attitude and jacked their prices significantly when they became popular, and are now gone. Other places I walked into smelled dirty, and often WERE dirty, with filmy glasses, unwiped tables,floors that never got mopped, and a couple of days' worth of fingerprints on the front door. You were served on chipped, mismatched cups and dishes, and the selection of snacks was miserable. One place served packaged sweets of the type you get in vending machines.

Fargo said...

There were a lot of factors in Don's departure, but I agree that Starbucks was not one of them. Scenes sounds like a cool place, but that came and went while I was living out of state. I've heard about Voltaire, but never experienced that one either. In neighborhoods where there is enough demand and no collusion as with Scenes, independents and Starbucks can co-exist.

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