Abandoning one-size-fits-all in new stores, Starbucks serves up some local character

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November 17, 2006

12:38 AM

p. In an effort to individualize coffeehouse locations and refute claims of homogenization, Starbucks Corporation has decided to tailor store locations to specific neighborhood atmospheres and surroundings.

p. A Nov. 10 Wall Street Journal article reported that over the course of the past two years, Starbucks has placed interior designers in different regional offices across the country in order to focus on designing store locations that adapt to local surroundings. Starbucks claims that this move was not designed to fight against common complaints of the chain’s overexposure and institutionalization, but instead to combat fears that additional Starbucks locations would ruin city character. This fear is exemplified in locations such as Arroyo Grande, Calif. and Denver, Colo., where Starbucks has recently run into trouble obtaining building permits. The company has also had permit problems in Williamsburg.

p. In an interview with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer last April, Launi Skinner, senior vice president for store development for Starbucks, said that Starbucks is “less about the transaction, and more about the experience.” By localizing store design, the company hopes to individualize and improve that experience.

p. At the College, with three coffee shops offering Starbucks products within five minutes of one an other and a potential fourth on the way, and where the competition for the coffee market is fierce, this decision has wide-reaching effects.

p. Many fear the presence of an additional Starbucks would hurt small independent coffeehouses, such as the on-campus Daily Grind. But Grind manager Scott Owen does not seem worried about such a prospect, citing marked differences between the Grind and Starbucks.

p. “Starbucks has made drinking coffee a family experience. From a business standpoint, I think they’re smart. If I can’t withstand the competition from a Starbucks opening across the street from the College, maybe I shouldn’t be in business,” Owen said.

p. Owen said that he would continue to rely on individual preferences and widespread customer loyalty to keep customers choosing the Grind over the numerous other coffee shops across campus.

p. “I like the individual feel of the Daily Grind; I feel that it’s more intimate and homey. At an individual coffee shop, I feel more welcomed. Starbucks isn’t designed for students; it’s so much more corporate,” Leah Fry, a freshman who works at the Starbucks in the College bookstore and a frequent Grind customer, said.

p. With the possibility of an additional Starbucks opening in the location now occupied by the College Delly, the City of Williamsburg will not have a major say in potential store decor or design, but Starbucks may choose on its own to follow its own trend and embrace the local character.

p. According to Vice-Mayor Clyde Haulman, “The city does have certain zoning and architectural requirements [that businesses must meet], but other than that, it’s really up to the market to decide what types of firms can come in and operate.”

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