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The Great Placemaking Thing About Starbucks

I know I have readers that are completely anti-Starbucks.  The vitriol is spewed along with  the hate of chain stores, fatty food, sprawl, cars and everything else a good Charter-believing New Urbanist is supposed to hate.

I used to be you. Then I found out the place sold really good tea and cold drinks. My dumb very young professional self thought the only thing Starbucks sold was gourmet coffee. This drove an ex boss of mine crazy. I was working in  start-up culture, why didn’t I like Starbucks?

Well, it’s been four years and as I type this in Starbucks, where I also meet with another boss of mine on certain mornings, I can’t help but think about what a salvation this place has been. Because of Starbucks, I feel ok going into other coffee shops, ordering other non-coffee drinks and getting work done. The Starbucks I regularly frequent is on the side of town that is mostly black and mostly low-income or solid middle class. Yet, thanks to a location near a highway, it’s both convenient for the farmers, the road-warriors, the Walmart shoppers and the “boys from the hood” nearby.

Starbucks is really a beacon in the sky in many neighborhoods without a coffee shop culture. In some places, the tipping point for local, green-oriented commerce has not swung back the other way. Starbucks serves a a greener version of McDonald’s for those of us who have to swing through multiple towns on a regular basis.

Yet, I know there are better options. However, sometimes you have to start at zero. Be happy there’s at least some place to go where you can grab a hot or cold beverage, a piece of cake and sit with a book vibing to soft jazz music. A place where we can just go talk to our neighbors without being chased out after three hours.

A town square, despite it’s shape and form.

Hate Starbucks? Want to tell me more about your favorite local coffee shop(I love those too!) Or just want to join in on the ongoing conversation? Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Or join me in person at one of these upcoming events.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • What a great observation! I never thought of Starbucks that way [“creating a coffee shop culture”], but it’s so true if you think about the generations raised in the secluded suburbs…there isn’t such a thing as a walkable “hang out spot” that Starbucks provides (albeit not always walkable). Good point.
      

    • admin

      It is. And especially where we are, unless you have someone who’s running an independent coffee shop on Main Street, this is the only exposure. Thanks for sharing(and coming by!)

  • virginia

    In our families quest to find a solution to our duplex on steel on the corner of Washington & Edgeworth, with a traffic count of 75,000 in a 3 block radius and drive-thru capability, we climbed the Starbucks ladder to find their real estate agent who told us, essentially, that Downtown Greensboro wasn’t Starbucks worthy. Pity. We asked DGI for some help marketing the duplex and Ed Wolverton pointed us to DGI’s real estate listing service,which we used. But during that conversation, he confirmed the agent’s verdict, adding that, as far as drive-thrus, they just ringed Irving Park. As a family that has lived and worked downtown since 1937, we find this a narrow policy by Starbucks and a pathetic attitude by Greensboro’s “leaders” that roll over and accept this.
    I am not – and should not be – a huge patron, but I LOVE knowing its there! It is my treat and my mental vacation during a period when I can’t have one.

    • kristenej

      As much as I love Starbucks, I feel that it’s there for people who don’t have a Green Bean to go to. I’ve had Green Bean duplicate the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate for me with everything but the sea salt. As far as wanting the chain store, we could use a few to bring folks into the quirkier businesses downtown. I understand you wanting to have a franchise come in and help keep your building running and not have to do as much upkeep, but I see Starbucks as going to the “drive-thru” culture and not what they perceive as “bohemian” or even “low-income” culture.

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