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Caffeinate Corporately


A daring adventure beyond the limits of the “Think Globally–Caffeinate Locally” mindset reveals surprising vistas. Corporate Coffee and Crazy Aunt Coffee are competitors, but they need not be enemies. It was, after all, Starbucks which moved the latté into our daily consciousness. CoffeeCorp made all those artsy-activist mocha mills possible.

It is not rare to find a local shop thriving in the same neighborhood as a chain shop. Each offers a different experience. And if the market is deep enough, each can serve their own quite well. The market is made deeper by expanding the variety of coffee experiences available in a commercial district. And there is a reason CoffeeCorp has become the behemoth that Crazy Aunt baristas so outspokenly fear. People like ’em.

I can’t quite wrap my head around the grassroots (and quite sentimental) “save our starbucks” movement that has emerged in response to announced plans to close around 600 stores.

From Newark to Knoxville, customers, city planners, neighborhood activists, and mayors are asking the company to reconsider plans to close the locations. (Generally speaking, Starbucks is not slating its airport locations for closure. These stores, rather than being well-loved, are at least broadly considered a vast improvement over the airport bars with scalded coffee and perma-stale Danish that they replaced.)

It seems that Starbucks has come to represent progress for a neighborhood. Beyond initial concerns that the stores would simply draw a more gentrified clientele, the stores have become symbols for each neighborhood or city’s appearance on the international map, as if the threat of closure will send area residents and patrons stumbling back into oblivion. The Starbucks stores move into a neighborhood as the check-cashing businesses, the liquor and adult video stores, and the fried-food-through-bullet-proof-glass stores move out. (Indeed, here’s an advertisement for the sale of a check-cashing business that lists among its unique attributes that it is located in the same shopping center as a Starbucks.) Like the Guggenheim Museum was for Bilbao, Starbucks has symbolized the moment of “arrival” for towns in plains states, long-downtrodden neighborhoods in rust belt cities, and previously center-less suburbs of the Sunbelt states.

Near the NRR headquarters, we have a few local coffee shops. They are surviving, but nothing more. Just like the other businesses in the nodes they serve. Chain stores are several minutes further away, in newer and highly-trafficked malls. I fear it is a minority opinion in these parts, but a cup of Corporate Coffee might be just the thing to put some buzz in our moribund neighborhood commercial nodes.