February 28, 2007

Coffee Hotspots Square Off

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“Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks” is the slogan scrawled across the barista’s tip cup at Stella’s Café. While the message may reflect many locals’ resistance toward the new Starbucks in Collegetown, others in the community said they are pleased the Seattle coffee giant has moved in.

The Starbucks opened two weeks ago on the corner of Dryden Rd. and College Ave., and since then, students and business owners alike have reacted to the multinational coffee chain’s arrival in the heart of Collegetown.

“Starbucks is a coffee machine, we are human beings,” said Gregar Brous, co-owner of Collegetown Bagels, who earlier claimed to welcome Starbucks, saying he appreciated the store as healthy competition that would “generate a greater interest in coffee.”

Brous said he hopes students will stick with what he called CTB’s socially and environmentally conscious choice in products.

“Collegetown Bagels coffee is defined by 100 percent fair trade organic coffee. We do this to make a statement. It’s part of who we are and part of our appeal.”

Brous also said the businesses were different enough that he did not see Starbucks as a direct threat.

“Their advantages are centered around their streamlined menu. It’s easy to teach, very efficient, and always consistent. We offer a broad based product line. You can get break fast, lunch, dinner, or anything in between,” he said.

With Starbucks moving in just across the street from his business, Stella’s owner Rob Cohen took a similar stance. Cohen said he is not intimidated by the global chain, but went on to pitch his café’s individuality as an intangible asset that a giant like Starbucks does not have.

“Students from big cities are familiar with Starbucks, and they may choose to go there. Our customers seek us out because we’re a niche market. “People feel a connection to Stella’s,” Cohen said.

Cohen, like Brous, highlighted his business’ support of local suppliers as a point that would appeal to his customers.

“We have the best coffee we could find. Our whole business is different. We buy a great number of our products locally. Our coffee is shipped to us the same day it is roasted,” Cohen said.

Starbucks employees declined to comment for this article, citing corporate policy.

Although Brous and Cohen shared bristly attitudes toward the new coffeehouse in town, students’ and locals’ opinions were more mixed.

“I think it sucks. With Starbucks here, it makes more of an initiative to be out there and different. Luckily, Stella’s already has that,” said Emma Randall, a barista at Stella’s.

Peter Fritch ’09, another Stella’s barista, was indifferent to the new arrival.

“Honestly, I really don’t care,” he said. “I like Starbucks. People are just against it because it’s popular.”

Students said they choose their coffeeshop based on menu options, location, or the store’s atmosphere.

Cara Becker ’07 and a friend spent Saturday afternoon studying at Starbucks. They said they liked the relaxing ambience.

“I don’t prefer one over the other, but Starbucks is less hectic, and the seating is more comfortable here,” Becker said.

Over coffee and a sandwiches at CTB, Genevieve Wolpert ’07 and Rebecca Stievater ’07 said they were partial to Collegetown Bagels.

“I was actually the first customer at Starbucks. It opened at 6 a.m., and I got there at 6:06. I do feel more loyalty toward CTB, though. I’m from Boston, and we have a lot of Starbucks there, so I drink it often when I’m at home. When I’m [at school] I want something different,” Stievater said.

“CTB has a good location. It’s the first place coming back from campus, so it’s really convenient,” Wolpert said.