For a few months, Small Town and Small Town Next Door were all hopped up on the new Starbucks that was opening up by the mall. The company announced in January or so they would be building a shop and would plan on opening some time in March. There were debates about how this would affect the local shops—would the competition hurt or help? Would people be loyal to their favorite places for joe, or would they defect? Considering the location, which is a bit out of the way for most people heading to work, I didn't think it would do harm.
Now, Starbucks has announced they will not be moving here after all. We are not a large enough market for them, and we are not urban enough. They say that as if they didn't pay us a visit before they chose the spot for their building and gave the builder the idea it was OK to go ahead and break ground. They say that as if they didn't do a lick of research, which I find difficult to believe. I think it might be more likely they just can't afford to take chances on smaller towns these days, what with their recent financial struggles.
Do we care? Small Town Paper took an online poll, and apparently 78% of us don't. We like our locally owned shops, joints we can pop into because they are perfectly situated in store fronts on main street, places with familiar faces who know what you want even before you place your order. In My Favorite Place for Joe, if the person on duty is in the back, you can go behind the counter and get your own refill. You don't mind holding the back door open so that same person can take the trash out or bring a delivery in. You don't mind straightening the rug when it gets bunched up at the cash register, and you know where the napkins are kept so you can get extras if you need them. The eccentric poet and the talkative guitar player and the school bus driver who plays drums and the long-haired guy with the black coat who knows everything there is to know about computers and the rich guy who needs a chiropractor and the barbershop quartet singing in the back room and the investment counselor who used to teach tennis and the school teachers having an early lunch and the pastors talking about the Gospel of John and the lanky guy from the radio station and the mailman with the ponytail and the woman who prints the menus and her various friends can all sit together and belong. And they can get a good cup of coffee while they're at it.
Over the weekend, I was stopped at the red light in front of My Favorite Place for Joe. While I was waiting for the light to change, I looked in the direction of the coffee shop and saw the owner standing behind the counter waving at me. I waved back and thought this is what a local small town shop gives a customer—familiarity and belonging. I doubt that would ever happen at Starbucks. That doesn't make the corporate shop a bad place. Some people just want to order a good, strong cup of coffee from an anonymous barrista who doesn't want to be bothered with waving out the window and who won't let you go behind the counter for any reason.
The big, corporate shop just isn't a match for Small Town, I guess. Starbucks would have found their market here had they made an effort, but we won't feel a loss now they have backed out.