Surita Basu/Sun Assistant Managing Editor

Ithacans gathered in front of the old Collegetown Starbucks location on Labor Day to rally in support of unionization efforts.

September 7, 2022

Searching for Alternatives, Students Grapple with the Closure of Collegetown Starbucks

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Collegetown residents are having caffeine withdrawals following the closure of a Collegetown staple — the local Starbucks.

The Starbucks in Collegetown served Cornell students and Ithaca residents for more than 15 years until its closure on June 10. Starbucks has been met with local and national criticism due to the decision to close its store occurring just two months after the unionization efforts of all three Ithaca locations in April.

The coffee shop chain claimed that the decision was made following an internal assessment of the safety and sanitation conditions of the location. More specifically, Starbucks stated that the failure of a grease trap made the location too hazardous to continue its operations. 

In response, several unionized workers alleged Starbucks of retaliation against unionization, leading to numerous, city-wide public gatherings and protests. 

Customers have been heavily affected by Starbucks’ on-going conflicts with its workers and have formed mixed feelings about the store closure. In particular, Cornell students who frequented the store have been forced to turn to alternative options to satisfy their cravings for caffeine, food and public study spaces. 

Rachel Green ’24, prior to her move to Collegetown, used to make a long walk from North Campus to the Collegetown to buy her morning coffees at Starbucks. She voiced that the on-campus coffee choices pale in comparison to Starbucks.

“[Starbucks] had a variety of different coldbrews and drinks, more-so than the [locations] on campus,” Green said.

Green has opted to buy her coffee at Collegetown Bagels, as well as other campus stores. She noted that she has seen somewhat longer lines at other coffee locations in the area, including CTB.

Daniel Newman ’25 was less distraught about the Starbucks closing. He currently works at a separate Cornell coffee shop and assured that his experience as a coffee shop employee made the issue of fair labor conditions personal to him. 

“We need to make sure employees are being 100 percent respected [and are] given all the benefits that they deserve,” Newman said.  

Newman voiced that the consequences of Starbucks closing is visible at other coffee stores, including the store he works for. According to Green, having less options makes alternative stores suffer longer lines and become more crowded. 

Mateo Pesa ’25 was more straightforward in his assessment of the store’s closure and the emergence of new options, saying that CTB coffee was definitely “worse” than Starbucks. However, he maintained that he “supports the workers,” and that his opinions on the dip in quality were not drastic enough to sway his opinions on unionization. 

Coffee proved not to be the only loss after the store’s closure. Cole Kay ’25 explained how he would occasionally study at the shop, and that it was a popular place overall for students to do their schoolwork. 

“People are pretty upset [about Starbucks’ closure…], but I think people are also happy that [the workers] unionized and that they are now protected,” Kay said.