Why I Hate Starbucks

It’s not for the taste of their coffee, which is “meh” at best.

It’s not for the fact that they sell milk shakes disguised as “morning beverages”.

It’s not even for the fact that they sell a lifestyle, more than a product.

No, what drives me crazy about Starbucks is their belief that they should be eveywhere, even if it comes at the cost of other coffee shops.

I live in West Seattle. At last count, we had close to a dozen coffee shops/places that sold espresso drinks in a three block radius. Demand is high for the dark brew and those who open a shop will and can find an market for their wares.

There have been two coffeeshops closures over the past year. One place shut down because they were in a bad location and marketed themselves equally poor (it was sort of a bike-shop/coffee shop that I never quite understood). I did not know the owners of this location at all

I did know of the owners of the second coffeeshop that had closed. My roommate knew them better than I and it is through her that I found out this story. Consider this story anecdotal as I have no firsthand account of either side of the story. I’ll leave it up to you if this is plausible, let alone accurate.

About a year ago, they had purchased an established coffeeshop called Infinity Espresso. Their location was at a small plaza is anchored by a drug store at one end, and a Safeway supermarket at the other. The rest of the plaza is peppered with the types of stores that one often finds in these locations – a smoke shop, a UPS store, a nail salon.

This coffeeshop wasn’t as popular as the other nearby locations, but it did bring in money, and the owners were satisfied with their investment. They could clearly pay their lease and still have enough to make a small living off of the place.

Fast forward a year to the current day. Starbucks is now in the location where this small business once occupied. So what happpened?

Important to note in all of this are the two new shopping centers being built in the area. The land in the area has clearly raised in value and no doubt that commercial space in any of nearby locations has also gone up in cost.

But an inability to pay the higher costs wasn’t what forced Infinity Espresso out. Starbucks, was simply willing to pay more than the going rate. When Infinity Espressos lease came up for renewal, the management of the plaza simply chose to not re-sign them. They kicked out Infinity and put in a Starbucks.

A year ago, out of the dozen or so coffeeshops, there was only a small presence by Starbucks, a tiny little stand at the Safeway.

Now they have three locations, with their third location taking over a spot already established by a smaller operator.

Dont’ get me wrong, I blame the plaza Management as well. But it seems as if there was some collusion between Starbucks and the plaza prior to the end of Infinity’s lease.

And that what sucks about the whole thing.

Because even if you’re moderately successful, and have set your business up in a location where high growth is expected over the coming years, it doesn’t guarantee anything. It seems as if there’s nothing preventing a multi-national corporation from coming in and making promises of higher leases and/or extended contract lengths, not to mention selling the plaza management of the “value added” of having said multi-national parking themselves in the plaza.

So now, instead of a local small business being given the opportunity to become really popular, we have a plaza increasing their value by a small percentage, Starbucks adding yet another store to the thousands that already exist, and one small business owner kicked to the curb – simply because they were in a space that Starbucks wanted for themselves.

Explain to me how Starbucks are the good guys again? Because right now, I only see yet another corporate bully.