31 March 2008



Above is a photo of another underground parking garage being built, this one in Savannah, GA. At great expense, this city is rebuilding Ellis Square. I think the sentiment of this graffiti is a serious concern in a beautiful but somewhat earthy city like Savannah. The riverfront and market area has turned totally touristy and tacky, and they risk losing their authenticity IMO.

I drove hundreds of miles over Easter break, and was surprised that Starbucks is so prevalent at freeway exits. I had my first Starbucks' experience ever last week, and it was in a Kroger store. The $3.00 cappuccino was of low to average quality, and I really don't see why they are so popular or why they are considered to be the preeminent sign of urban gentrification. I wonder what percentage of total Starbucks stores are urban vs. those that are suburban in another store or in a strip mall vs. those that are stand alone with drive-through.

I can only think of two Starbucks in Cincinnati, one downtown and one in Clifton, but I'm sure there are dozens in the neaby suburbs.


valereee said...

There's one in Montgomery, another a mile away in Blue Ash, and a third just down the road in Kenwood.

Heather said...

One in Columbia-Tusculum, One in Rookwood Plaza. And then the Starbuckslette in the Meijer's on Ridge/Marburg.

CityKin said...

Their image is urban, but my personal experience is that they are just as suburban as McDonalds.

Anonymous said...

valeree, you forgot the one in the Barnes & Noble on the corner of Kenwood & Montgomery (second floor of that old mall they turned inside out and filled with big box stores)(and yes, that Starbucks is, as the crow flies, just a few hundred feet from the one you listed as "just down the road"); and the one across the street in Kenwood Mall (inbetween the food court and that men's shoe store); and the one in the rehabbed Blue Ash Krogers; and the one near the new Wal-Mart near Reading & Glendale-Milford. There's a Caribou in a strip mall at Reed-Hartman & Cornell, too.

To be fair, there are a few independents around here: one in downtown Maderia; one in the strip mall at Galbraith & Plainfield; and two on Loveland-Madeira Road.

What can I say, I live out here and like lattes.

Blue Ash Mom

Radarman said...

I can't speak for the capuccino, but Starbucks is one of the few places you can count on getting an espresso fixed and served correctly. Many places, including the shop closest to where I work, see nothing wrong in dropping a single espresso to the bottom of a twelve ounce paper cup where it cools off instantly and looks like something let loose by a tobacco chewer.

VisuaLingual said...

You and I are in agreement about Starbucks, in terms of both coffee quality and the stores' function within a neighborhood. But, it seems that in less urban communities Starbucks have found a niche as neighborhood gathering places. If your choices are limited to strip malls, I guess Starbucks is the closest thing you have to a third place. Another thing is that I'll bet people appreciate the predictability of the "Starbucks experience." It's like going to McDonalds not because it'll be good, but because it'll be the same. If you find yourself in a new city, perhaps the availability of Starbucks is a comfort.

Here is an excerpt from Naomi Klein's No Logo that discusses some aspects of the Starbucks strategy.

Unfortuately, for many communities, the presence of a chain like this may serve to legimitize the quality of the place, and signal a kind of "arrival." E.g. Cincinnati is good enough for an Ikea; OTR is good enough for a Dewey's [oops, never mind].

valereee said...

Interestingly, one of the very best locations for an independent coffeehouse is...(wait for it) as near as possible to a Starbucks. Apparently people get hooked on $3 lattes then take off the training wheels and graduate to an independent. Starbucks has already done all the market research on where a coffeehouse will be successful, so setting up shop next door almost guarantees success.

CityKin said...

I agree with you, I would only add that downtown cincy might be more legitimate if we could have a McDonalds. They are ubiquitous, even in urban settings, but we lost our last one years ago.

Anonymous said...

I think I can hear the campaign rally cry to restore the clown downtown.

A market demand for corporate and independent coffee shops and a complete absence of one of the largest fast food chains in the world is an interesting snapshot.

Since that particular fast food chain markets itself exhaustively to children, one wonders what the baseline factors must be before the market research folks green light the investment of a franchise and what factors contributed to the demise of its previous existence.

Anonymous said...

There are actually 3 Starbucks locations downtown - 4th and Vine, the 580 Building, and the Atrium. I do think the local coffee places are better (Kitty's, Coffee Emporium, etc), but they do tend to have limited hours. However, the 4th and Vine Starbucks has fantastic hours. If I want a latte at 10 PM on a Sunday, the 4th and Vine Starbucks is open.

I do not like the atmosphere at Starbucks locations that have a drive-thru or ones that are in grocery stores.

CityKin said...

Oh yeah, I've seen signs for the one at the 580 building, but never seen it, as it is on the second floor isn't it? I had no idea there was one in the Atrium building as well.

CityKin said...

Are they really open that late on a Sunday? Pretty impressive.

Jason said...

Its kind of a tough call on whether or not a starbucks would be a good thing for OTR or not?
On one hand it would make the neighborhood more inviting for out of towners as mentioned, but on the other hand it would be bad for the local/specialty coffee shops that, IMO, typically make better coffee and have a much better atmosphere. Plus, supporting local business is always better than supporting corporate enterprises. So, my vote would be for no starbucks in OTR, if that day ever comes.
Great Post!

Matt said...

I just moved back from Savannah, and witnessed the early development of the garage for the reconstruction of Ellis Square. As with other opinions here, I'm kind of against national chains, but find myself in Starbucks repetitively (mainly because, as one person said, they make it right every time).

I've studied Klein (and other media theorists), and nod my head in agreement with a lot of what she says, yet, chains become chains for a reason - because people like their goods and repetitively support them. They obviously offered a product that was good enough in the initial store that they were able to expand
(through profit, from us).

I wonder if Cincinnatians would have the same negativity about chains if Larosa's, Graeter's, Montgomery Inn, and Skyline, expanded nationally. Oh yeah, they already have... because their products are great.

In OTR, or anywhere in Cincy, chains are good because they add the reliability of a proven product, and thus, validity to the area they're in. They also give tourists afraid of new experiences a place to rely on. That being said, I'm all for a balance of national and local offerings to maintain a sense of individuality (Cincinnati's historical strong suit).

As spraypainted on the window of the construction site, there most likely won't be a Starbucks there...mainly because there is on Broughton Street just a few blocks away, and there are two other local coffee shops within walking distance (both subpar in taste to Starbucks IMO). The other reason for 'no Starbucks' on Ellis Square? That project probably won't be completed for another 100 years - construction is extremely slow in Sav. (yes, worse than Cincinnati).

Randy Simes said...

There actually isn't a Starbucks in Clifton...I think you're thinking of the one in Clifton Heights. In addition to that there is also one on UC's main campus.

But yes, I agree that Cincinnati has somehow staved off the invasion of Starbucks on every street corner.

5chw4r7z said...

Don't forget the Starbucks in Ingredients practically on the Square..

5chw4r7z said...

I wanted to expand on Matt Hunters comment about chains having great products, love or hate 'em you can argue that all day but, the number one reason chains are successful is no matter where they are built they already have a built in customer base. Thats the one lesson independents need to learn, how do you grow a customer base quickly, maybe even before you open? I think Park+Vine did a halfway decent job of that.

valereee said...

It's also consistency. People know what they're going to get. It isn't going to be the best cup of coffee they've evver had, but it won't be a bad one, either. It'll be just like the one they had in the Starbucks in the last town. People will give up the possibility of having something good in order to avoid the risk of getting something bad. It's the whole idea behind a franchise. It's what I hate about American food marketing, but then I'm not the target audience.