Friday, April 21, 2006

rant regarding my neighborhood (Seminole Heights), Starbucks and Progress

I noticed this tidbit on a local blog in my neighborhood today from the St. Pete Times:

The April 7 opening of the Seminole Heights Starbucks could rank with the advent of the trolley and the interstate as the most pivotal events in the neighborhood's history. Now residents are waiting to see if the collateral development that often accompanies Starbucks stores will spark on Seminole Heights' blighted thoroughfares. If it does, ground zero likely will be Leroy's 4X4 Automotive Center, next door to Starbucks at Hillsborough and Central avenues.
full article here

My nonlocal readers would be interested to know that a Starbucks just opened in our neighborhood, and it is a HUGE deal (seriously, in the 21st Century, this is big). The neighborhood had been lobbying for this business and finally got it. Although there were some initial protests and an unoriginal attempt to tell them they were not welcome, most have been happy. link

In fact, most have heralded this event as something barely short of the Second Coming. As you can see from the quote, Seminole Heights finds it a pivotal event in our history, finally pulling the neighborhood into the late 20th Century.

I must say that I find this frighteningly sad. Why, you ask? It is not that I have something against Starbucks (although I do not like paying exorbitant prices for average coffee, and have not liked much of its environmental policies or policies on fair trade- even though they have taken a huge step forward the past couple of years). I have been known on occasion to stop in one and ask them to make me a French Press cup of fair trade brew (they have to say yes to this request).

However, it is frustrating that a historic neighborhood with unparalleled architectural beauty, at least for early 20th Century bungalows, thinks it needs a corporate coffee shop for change. With the number of wonderful residents, many of whom are quite creative, we should not need this (or should have gotten it in 1998). It is even sadder if this is what we were waiting on to be the catalyst.

On Saturday we went with my family to the dreadful Oldsmar Flea Market and passed 4 Starbucks along Hillsborough Avenue in the not-exactly-hip western suburbs. Do we really need something they had in the suburbs years ago to feel good about ourselves? Why weren't we lining up for coffee at independent coffee houses that have come and gone in the past few years? Do we need some company to tell us the coffee is good for us to believe them? Will we only buy products at a chain? Where were all the successful businesses before? I could continue.

Again, this is not a Anti-Starbucks rant. I am happy they found a market in this area. I am glad they have made SHers happy (and more caffeinated, I guess). I am glad there is a place to hang out and meet people besides the front of a car lot or gas station. I just cannot believe that this is what will spur businesses in our neighborhood to arrive. It speaks volumes of the lack of vision of local businesses and/or the lack of support for such businesses during the past 10 years of renewal in the area. It just seems a bit backwards to me (remember, this is coming from a guy that lived in a neighborhood in Boston that fought every attempt to bring in chains and supported local businesses only- it was hippyville).

I should be glad that, unlike my Houston neighborhood, at least they are not building a "Starbucks across the street from a Starbucks" (in the immortal words of Lewis Black).


PReSON said...

I drank 4 americanos today, and an esspresso brownie.

Rick said...

you will pay for your actions. Maybe not today.. but someday.

Jimmy Dean said...

While Starbucks is certainly not the second coming, neither is it the apocalypse. I think both camps are giving a single establishment too much credit.

david said...

I agree with Jimmy Dean in that it's not the end or the beginning, but I concede it's progress.

I like it because it gives a choice and I think it will help spur business in that corridor. Is that sad? Maybe, but it's also true.

As far as independent coffee houses go - I worked and spent a lot of my time from high schoool through grad school in many a coffee house. I would love to have a great local indie coffeehouse. But we don't. I've lived here since 98, and I've never seen anything that I would refer to as that either. Not in this neighborhood anyway.

I supported the Starbucks and I've only been there once since it opened. I've also only been to the Indigo (another chain, even if it's local) once. I almost always make my coffee at home but if I want a coffee on the wuick on a Sunday morning and I don't want to wait a half an hour for it - I have a choice now. Even if it's a $5 one.

shakkahop said...

you can count on there being no indie coffee houses now. i have tried to only go to non-chain establishments to support the small biz. but find they are deterirating quickly. it's like art to me, i much prefer a friend's personal piece of art on my wall rather tha a print i picked up of 2 cherub's at pier 1.
the more chain's the less individuality in our purchases. sad.