August 10, 2008
Near Astor Place, you can actually sit in a Starbucks, enjoy a venti latte, and look out across the street onto”another Starbucks. I”m sure there are many other places where such a thing is possible. During the big Starbucks expansion in the late “90s and early “00s, it seem that one might not be able to escape the green logo of a twin-tailed mermaid with wavy hair. There”d soon be a Starbucks in everything hospital, pet shop, and hardware store”a Starbucks in every Starbucks!
As the mermaid multiplied she became appreciably less cool. For espresso snobs, quaffing espresso at Starbucks became a bit like eating at McDondals. For the anti-globalization Left, the old black and green became a symbol of wicked corporate, worldwide homogenization. Starbucks became The Man”and no amount “fair trade” could save it.
Well, with gas at over four bucks a gallon, Americans are less enthused about shelling out $3.75 for a tall cap, and Starbucks has been forced to shut down hundreds of its stores, leaving those green-apronned baristas, and thousands of corporate employees, out of luck.
Over at Spiked, Brendan O”Neil has a pointed piece on the disturbing amount of glee expressed by many on the Left over Starbucks’s recent troubles”with the implication that anyone willing to work for the soulless corporate behemoth basically got what he deserved. O”Neil in on the mark in noting that the loathing expressed by the anti-Starbucks crowd is mostly aesthetic in nature”the yucky corporate logo everywhere, perish the thought that one might purchase a cappuccino in a strip mall!
It’s also easy to pick on the big guy”your neighborhood joint might buy its beans at the exact same place as does Starbucks and have identical profit margins, and yet somehow the mermaid’s a fascist whereas your local shop has a communitarian air.
More importantly, on the whole, it’s simply untrue that Starbucks pushed out independent shops during its rise. From 2000-2005, the amount of coffee shops in the U.S. increased by 157%, with a quarter of that growth coming from other retailers. As blogger Jacob Grier points out, “Starbucks plays an important role in giving people their first gourmet coffee experience, after which they can and often do branch out to try out other sources.”
In other words, before you can become a really obnoxious snob who rejects Starbucks out of hand, you first had to pay a visit to the Mermaid and awkwardly ask for something called a double-tall cap.
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