Friday, March 24, 2006

 

The Missoula Starbucks

It's rare these days when I agree with a Missoulian editorial -- seems like they're letting their high school intern pen them lately -- but I, er...that is...I...how do I say this? Agree? With the editorial on Starbucks?
It's an encouraging reflection of how well things are going in Missoula these days that little else is causing as much teeth-gnashing among the local intelligentsia than the impending opening of a downtown Starbucks coffee shop. Oh, the horror!
The Missoulian is...er...right. Starbucks started as a little independent coffee shop and is responsible for introducing the country to good coffee. It's big because it's good. It's not barging into the market of cafes, it invented the market. Sure, it's been taken over by a greedy corporate mindset and has spread its tentacles across the nation. But I remember the world before Starbucks, and it wasn't pretty. Watery truckstop coffee. Instant coffee. Lipton Tea, for God's sake! And to be fair to Starbucks, they do respond to criticism. In response to a drive to get the company to sell fair trade coffee, they now offer such coffee at many of their stores. I can't help but, er, agree with this last point, too:
Now a confession: Some of us haven't darkened a Starbucks' door for years. There's no shortage of good coffee to be had in these parts, and most of it is a good deal more conveniently obtained than by traveling to the nearest Starbucks. The opening of its downtown shop won't change that by much. We don't much fear for the survival of our favorite coffee vendors - they're not about to roll over and play dead. They'll compete, some of them fiercely, and most of them will find a way to succeed.
Break Espresso is probably the cafe most threatened by the new Starbucks. But it's just bought the adjacent space and knocked down the seperating wall to make a very kick-*ss cafe, twice as large as before, now with lots of light and tables. And Break patrons are loyal. At least my wife is loyal. I guess my only regret about the new Starbucks is that Missoula doesn't have many chain outlets on the main drag. There's a "Jamba Juice." And the Bon Marche. Or Macy's, whatever it's called nowadays. But that's it. Hopefully the new Starbucks doesn't represent a trend.
Comments:
It speaks well of Missoula's economy that the biggest concern you have about the main drag is that national companies might be interested in jumping into Missoula's downtown.
 
Principles arise out of luxury? Or something?
 
Starbucks PAC money is overwhelmingly Democratic. Their employment conditions are better than average. If you're going to give money to a giant corporation, Starbucks is a pretty good one in many respects.
 
I said this on the New West Web site, too: Starbucks, whatever its faults, makes a good latte, and as the 15-year owner of a home espresso machine, I'm damned picky. If I'm in a new town and I need a good latte, yep, I'll go to Starbucks. But in Missoula? No way. Not with the Break, Butterfly Herbs, Liquid Planet and Bear's Brew open for business. I'm guessing the only people who will drink at Starbucks are people who don't normally go to downtown Missoula coffeeshops, which means more biz for the downtown. Sounds good to me.
 
Don't forget Bernice's Bakery! Mmmm, rasberry cream cheese croissants and a cup o' joe so strong it'll curl your toes...
 
I like Starbucks, too. I don't love Starbucks, but I also don't really love coffee. If I'm going to hate a corporation, I'm going to hate one that's actually evil, since there are plenty to choose from.
 
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