Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What Do You Call It When a Starbucks Closes? A Good Start!

An article in the New York Times this week reports some glorious news: a Starbucks is closing! Actually, it sounds like many of them might close.

“After more than a decade of sensational buzz, Starbucks is struggling,” notes the Times. Starbucks’ Howard D. Schultz said this week he will roll out a plan that “will almost certainly involve shutting down more stores, saying that the company's strategy of saturation (just look at the map of NYC starbucks locations!), its “WalMarting” of the coffee experience, is flailing. that’s great news. My question: what can I do to help hasten the downfall?

Yes, folks, I pretty much hate Starbucks. I hate this tasteless chain for taking over my city block by block, for threatening the livelihood of neighborhood cafes, for hypercaffeinating and giving refuge to dickhead, laptopped yuppies, for poisoning the culinary lexicon with "product" like the triple-shot venti mocha skim half-caff latte and the “frappuccino,” while overcharging for a regular cup of their grainy, bitter “coffee of the day.” And all that was before they started serving crappy food and selling crappy CDs. I have to think putting out Paul McCartney's latest turd on their own label alone is reponsible for 50 stores closing.

OK, maybe I'm a bit of hypocrite. In Madrid, I loved the offerings of Spanish chain Cafe y The. Part of my disdain for the corporate coffee experience that is Starbucks is tied up with the feeling of watching my once-vibrant neighborhood be overrun by developers. Between 1998 and 2000, no less than five Starbucks opened around my old East Village home. It was only a sign of things to come. Back in 1990, I used to walk down my block and see colorful slogans like “fuck the police” scrawled on walls. One day, shortly after the first “luxury dorm” went up and Starbucks began threatening my favorite coffee shops, a new slogan appeared: "ban ATM fees." The issues and struggles of the gentrifying yuppie may lack emotional impact, but about a year later, I was living in Brooklyn.

No, I'm not bitter (unlike Starbucks overly roasted Kona, blehhh). And, I know, you can't stop progress. But you can stop Starbucks, and that, as far as I'm concerned is progress.--F

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