starbucks in remission

It looks as though the cancer known as Starbucks has finally grown to exceed the carrying capacity of the earth. The highly caffeinated corporate behemoth announced today that 600 stores would be closed in the coming months. This comes after an extended period of frenetic growth. (Over 70% of the company’s now ubiquitous stores were opened in the last 2.5 years.)

I guess the economy finally caught up to the chain. As addicted as people are, they’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and I guess the $4 coffees probably have to go before meat and potatoes. (Word is that Dunkin Donuts is picking up a lot of the business, as people wanting to pay their mortgages reluctantly concede that the method of drug delivery isn’t all that important.)

While I think, on the whole, this is a good thing for our country, and for independent coffee shops everywhere, it sucks for all of the employees of the emerald mermaid being jettisoned in the process. Starbucks, while responsible for contributing to the homogeneity that threatens our country, wasn’t the worst of employers. They were, from what I understand, generous with benefits, allowing even part-time workers access to healthcare. As with everything else these days, it’s a complicated issue. All things considered, however, I’m glad that we’ve reached what looks like the end of the expansion. (My hope is that a lot of their vacated stores will evolve into privately owned coffee shops. Hopefully, some will even be started by the Starbucks employees being let go.)

[The image presented here is a piece called “Consumer Whore” by Kieron Dwyer. It was among the works of art included in the Illegal Art show put together by Carrie McClaren a few years ago, which I’ve written about here in the past.]

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  1. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 1, 2008 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Noooo! Now, where the hell am I supposed to get a grande caffe latte if I ever find myself stranded in Columbus, Kentucky.

    (Yes, I’m still bitter. Pun intended.)

  2. Andy C
    Posted July 2, 2008 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Even though I’m not a fan of Starbucks coffee, They have saved my ass many times on tour. Just recently I was in a part of Milwaukee that only had independent stores, by 9pm I could not find a cup of coffee sold any where. Well one, but it was $7 to get in because they had bands playing. Subway is an ass saver too.

  3. frenchfries
    Posted July 2, 2008 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I find the vast majority of american coffee to be terrible. Dunkin Donuts coffee is ant piss. Do anti-Starbucks people think that all independent coffee shops are at the level of Ugly Mug? It’s very hard to make money in the coffee shop gig:

  4. Posted July 2, 2008 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    “…slain, after all man’s defenses had failed, by the humblest thing that God in His wisdom put upon this earth.” …a crumbling economy.

  5. frenchfries
    Posted July 2, 2008 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    From another Slate piece on Starbucks:

    “Hyman isn’t the only one who has experienced this Starbucks reverse jinx. Orange County, Calif., coffeehouse owner Martin Diedrich started hyperventilating when he first heard a Starbucks was opening “within a stone’s throw” of his cafe, yet he reported similar results: “I didn’t suffer whatsoever. Ultimately I prospered, in no small part because of it.” Ward Barbee, the recently passed founder of the coffee trade magazine Fresh Cup, saw this happen scores of times. “Anyone who complains about having a Starbucks put in next to you is crazy,” he told me. “You want to welcome the manager, give them flowers. It should be the best news that any local coffeehouse ever had.”

    Who else thinks that Starbucks did nothing but help that god forsaken piece of crap strip mall on Washtenaw? I don’t particularly like Starbucks for all the reasons others mention, but it is possible that our liberal gut instincts do not necessarily equal economic insight.

  6. Alfie
    Posted July 2, 2008 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    The Starbucks at Arborland helped turn that complex around. No doubt about it. The owners of that development bought it for something like $10 million and sold it a few years later for over 10x that. That doesn’t mean that the complex is ultimately a good thing for the community. Companies like Starbucks are not accountable to their communities. They are accountable to their shareholders. They do raise the design and service bar for local establishments, which is good, but they do not offer long term solutions.

  7. Brackache
    Posted July 2, 2008 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    “…but it is possible that our liberal gut instincts do not necessarily equal economic insight.”

    Hi frenchfries!

    My name’s Brackache, and I’m addicted to nicotine.

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