||To Starbucks or Not to Starbucks
Posted: 3/23/2010 12:59:35 PM
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I live in West Philadelphia, a mixed race, mixed income neighborhood, going through a long and uneven campaign of gentrification. This hasn't been an over night thing, but since Penn built a public school in the neighborhood, property prices have climbed and some people have been pushed out (and priced out.) And a number of coffee shops, gastro-pubs and brew pubs, and BYOBS have opened to meet this demand.
But the neighborhood doesn't have a Starbucks -- the nearest one (three actually) is on Penn's campus. Well at least there isn't a Starbucks yet.
Today I received the following forwarded email. It is from a local listserve. The person who wrote this note owns a relatively new local market called Milk and Honey. This rather upscale store serves coffee and sandwiches and some prepared and take-away products. Again this is an upscale place and filled a spot occupied by a more corny storey, down market place called, and get this, "The People Market."
A little more back-ground. This proposed Starbucks will open on the southern edge of the neighborhood, a bit out of the way, and it will be on the campus of the University of the Sciences. (And this store will probably be a franchise, not a full-blown company-owned Starbucks.)
So here is what the note said:
"Four Worlds Bakery just passed on the information below about a Starbucks coming to our neighborhood. Please join me to fight it!
It is true that Starbucks is notorious for ignoring the wishes of its proposed neighbors but right now there is a clear opportunity to have your voice heard (whatever your opinion).
Personally, as a community member and business owner, I will do whatever I can to keep our area national chain free.
The Baltimore Ave business corridor and the Woodland Ave corridor are just beginning to change for the better. With this growth is attention from conglomerates and the risk of growing from a unique "traditional" main street to a junk food - junk store strip. I would hate to see that happen.
Please read on and email USP or join me at the Spruce Hill Neighborhood Association meeting tonight.
The University of the Sciences is seeking a zoning action to put in a Starbucks at 42nd and Woodland
There is a meeting at Spruce Hill Community Association (257 S. 45th St.) at 6:30 tonight (Tuesday); the Univ. is seeking the support of Spruce Hill for their zoning variance. Please come and be heard if you can. If you live in the neighborhood call Liz Bressi-Stoppe 215-895-1104 or email at email@example.com; Liz is the public relations rep for the University and wants to hear your opinions."
[Unfortunately, I can't atten this meeting, though I will report back on what I hear.]
And I wanted to also share an edited note/rejoinder from a neighbor. An interesting response and take on development and patterns of investment:
At this point, I think I'm basically just in favor of development in University City, Starbucks or otherwise.
Compared to other Philadelphia neighborhoods where you pay half a million dollars for a house, the array of choices for my eating and shopping without getting into a car are disappointingly limited, even if they've improved over the past few years. I suspect a Starbucks would help telegraph to the wider world of potential businesses that this is a profitable place to open up. Which might, just maybe, mean that we'll be able to leverage their generic storefront for, say, a new bar that could compete with 44, or a non-BYO restaurant, etc etc.
And there's nothing more grating to me than to hear people idolize the status quo—where large chunks of Baltimore are ugly and many of its storefronts are places I never go into—as some sort of stick-it-to-the-man ideal. Gimme a break. Wanna know how to stick it to the man? Build a neighborhood where I don't have to get in my car as often.
More practically, though, I think Annie has nothing to worry about. Woodland at 42nd is the USP campus. I can't imagine going to a campus Starbucks there any more than I can imagine going to the one on Penn's campus. Maybe it'll eat into her student business a bit, but I can't imagine a whole lot of impact on her business or that of the other coffee joints. True, we may be reaching coffee shop saturation, but that's not Starbucks' fault any more than anyone else's.
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