On Starbucks Remodeling Good Stores Into Sterile Coffee Shops.


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On my street there are two Starbucks stores – one that was there when I moved in a few years ago, and one that came in recently and bought out our favorite little independent coffee place.

They are practically right across the street from each other, and they are both busy at most hours of the day. But that is not necessarily what I wanted to write about; rather, I wanted to discuss the issue of perfectly good stores remodeling themselves for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

Let’s take this in two parts – first, the store that opened across the street from the existing Starbucks, taking over the coffee shop we used to go to all the time. The store we used to go to was there in that location for years and looked brand new inside – everything was clean and streamlined, with comfortable chairs and couches, coffee tables, and plenty of space to stretch out. People went there to read books, work on their laptops (with free Wi-Fi, unlike Starbucks), or to catch up with friends. The people behind the counter knew our drinks and were always incredibly friendly. Then all of a sudden there was a sign in the window announcing that they were closing – and a Starbucks was moving in. Fantastic, just what we needed – another one on the same block. Anyway, as soon as our coffee place closed, the Starbucks people moved in and demo’d the entire place and took away all the personality, all the comfortable chairs, and all the atmosphere that made our place so popular. Instead in it’s place we got a corporate, die-cut environment that neither encourages lingering nor inspiration of any kind. All at once they were successful in both ruining the old vibe and wasting perfectly good coffee machines, sofas, tables, walls, artwork, etc… I can only imagine the amount of waste that went in the trash and the amount of raw materials they used to replace it all with.

For the second part of this article, I want to go back to the original Starbucks that is on the other corner – the one that was there when I moved into the neighborhood. This one was usually very busy, and was very new and modern and clean inside. It too, like the new one across the street, does not have any comfortable chairs or a good atmosphere that wants to make you hang out for more than 5 minutes. So what did they do? They closed the store for 3 days for a remodel that wasn’t needed or necessary. Once the store re-opened after 3 days, it looked exactly the same inside. OK, well the paint color was a little lighter and the counter was about 2 inches lower…but other than that, it looked the same. Yet, they had gutted the entire thing during those three days. Where did all that waste go? How much of it was reused? They did not even try to make the inside more comfortable or “real” – the corporate-created sterility is written on the faux-chalkboards hung on the walls, meant to make the store feel like a local coffee joint. Nothing could be further from the truth and no matter how many times they remodel these stores, they cannot capture what a real local place feels like.

Starbucks is now touting their Environmental Mission Statement, which proudly proclaims their new goals as:

  • Understanding of environmental issues and sharing information with our partners.
  • Developing innovative and flexible solutions to bring about change.
  • Striving to buy, sell and use environmentally friendly products.
  • Recognizing that fiscal responsibility is essential to our environmental future.
  • Instilling environmental responsibility as a corporate value.
  • Measuring and monitoring our progress for each project.
  • Encouraging all partners to share in our mission.

I am far from innocent on issues surrounding Starbucks – I have had their coffee, I still occasionally do have their coffee, and I even use their disposable cups when I forget mine or am somewhere where I don’t have it. I am guilty on all charges. But how can a store talk about environmental standards such as “Instilling environmental responsibility as a corporate value”, “Striving to buy, sell and use environmentally friendly products”, or “Understanding of environmental issues and sharing information with our partners”, when I have seen first hand the destruction and rebuilding of 2 perfectly good stores on the same street? I can only imagine how often this is happening across the country, and how many perfectly good coffee shops, Starbucks owned or taken-over, that are being so wasteful of building materials and our environment.

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  1. I agree 100% – they are sucking the life out of the idea of a coffee shop. I hope one never moves into my neighborhood, they would ruin it. Good post.

  2. Starbucks coffee is gross anyway – independent shops are much better. Sorry they killed your coffee shop!!!!

  3. You know, a couple days ago I wrote a post on how when faced with having a work meeting at a local Starbucks, I asked them for a mug of their organic, fair-trade brew and they looked confused and responded “we didn’t brew those today, but we can make you a special pot” which I demanded… It’s the least they can do since they kill personality of the local community, right?

    Raleigh has the best Starbucks story ever, though, as (despite the fact we do have about 10 Starbucks in Raleigh) across from the main college in Raleigh, NC State U, there is a great coffee house called Global Village (Caribou Coffee had been there years before but eventually closed). Then Starbucks moved in. Next door to Global Village.

    Everyone feared that would put Mike Richey’s business, GV, out of business. But as patrons tried both, EVERYONE preferred the local Global Village… where you always knew your baristas because they weren’t a revolving door of employees… where the owner, Mike, learned your name and what your favorite drink was… where the owner would offer a total stranger his own umbrella on an ultra-stormy day because he knew she had to walk around campus all day and would be miserable soaked in class.

    After a couple years, Starbucks couldn’t get any customers while Global Village was so busy next door that a line stretched out the door and outside for a yummy coffee and sandwich to take on the road since the tables were taken.

    And Starbucks on Hillsborough street closed. And someone spray painted on the front of the abandoned Starbucks “Starbucks, you got served!”, which ran on the front page of the campus paper the day after Starbucks emptied.

    Raleigh is really commercial, but we can celebrate the one success of the only Starbucks in the nation that got shut down by their locally-owned competitor!

    Thanks for taking the time to let me share my Starbucks experience too!

  4. And as much as we don’t like Starbucks, know that unfortunately, we all get stuck going to one at the mercy of those who live by them… C’est la vie, we do what we can!

  5. Great story Ashley, and for it to happen in a big city like Raleigh is amazing! I can only hope that type of thing happens more often!

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