Starbucks Considers/Threatens to Come to Takoma

Photo by PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

From the Old Takoma Business Association:

“We have learned that Starbucks is actively considering the Takoma commercial district (DC and MD) as a new market.

The Old Takoma Business Association works to support locally-owned, independent businesses and recognizes the great, small businesses already in Takoma that serve coffee like La Mano Coffee Bar, Capitol City Cheesecake and Spring Mill Bread Company.

We’d like to ask for community feedback about a possible Starbucks in Takoma. Please share your comments HERE

Note: all comments are public and will be shared.”

55 Comment

  • Oh, this is going to be fun!

  • Sigh, Takoma. I live here; even though I don’t particularly like Starbucks, I hope it comes to the neighborhood. There’s a need for a coffee shop like Starbucks. La Mano is excellent but has very very limited seating. The other two serve ok coffee but are a distance from the main strip.
    Of course the Takoma listserve is up in arms. Folks want businesses that charge “at or below market”; they also want “artisinal coffee shops” like Shaw is getting. The cognitive dissonance of this demand hurts my head. These are the same folks that want to drive Taco-Ma (a locally owned small restaurant) out of business, because they think it’s too expensive and there are cheaper tacos a few miles away.

    • true. that said, i’m not sure i’d consider the takoma listserve representative of the community. 90% of the chatter comes from the same handful of oddballs, and moderators regularly delete dissenting opinion.

    • I totally agree with you. I’m a huge fan of La Mano but I think Takoma needs a place like Starbucks. I see them competing more with Capital City Cheesecake, which is a great place but I wish they stayed open later.
      Also those comments on the listserv about boycotting Taco-Ma were hilarious. I’m so looking forward to all the discussion on Starbucks!

    • HaileUnlikely

      Agreed. And FWIW, I experienced a mild case of sticker shock when I saw the prices at Taco-Ma, but I gave it a try anyway, and found their stuff to be so much a.) better, and b.) larger than similar places within a reasonable distance that I no longer object. I can get two meals out of one of their burritos without starving myself, and I admittedly tend to overeat.

      • Taco-ma is weird bc everything there is really good, except the tacos al pastor which are *horrible*

        • HaileUnlikely

          Haven’t tried that, thanks for the tip. I usually get the steak burrito and a side of yuca and it makes me a happy customer.

      • I agree that the prices at Taco-Ma are high. But the food is pretty tasty and I’m willing to pay for the convenience of grabbing food at a place that I walk past every day, rather than getting in my car to drive to save a few dollars.
        I just got back from LA; we got two burritos and two drinks for $11. And they were delicious.

      • That discussion did inspire me to try J&J tacos, which were amazing and cheap. However, Taco-ma is walking distance and decent, so I go there more often. I hope they stick around.

    • I moved to Takoma because it reminded me of living in a Seattle neighborhood. Small town feel, lots of coffee shops, hippies. A Starbucks would fit right into that Seattle feel. Somehow, independent coffee managed to thrive in Seattle despite the Starbucks juggernaut. The response on the listserv also reminds me of living in a Seattle neighborhood as well. NIMBYs are everywhere, I guess.
      Personally, I’m agnostic on the issue. I don’t drink Starbucks coffee now, I won’t drink it because there is one in the neighborhood. However, they have pretty good policies regarding employee pay and benefits. Besides, this is all moot. If Starbucks wants to gain a foothold in Takoma, they’ll just put it on the DC side to avoid dealing with the Takoma Park rules. A community feedback page will do nothing (as noted above, being from Seattle, SB is used to dealing with NIMBYs).

  • I hate this idea so much, if only because it would almost certainly put La Mano (which makes awesome coffee and is run by cool people) immediately out of business.

    • It would probably do no such thing. There is little evidence to support Starbucks putting independent coffee shops out of business, and some studies that show that Starbucks saturation even *increases* the number of coffee houses in a given area (although I’m skeptical of the methodologies on that one) People who want to support coffee houses do so because they like the coffee or the atmosphere or the fact that they are not Starbucks. Takoma Park has plenty of people who fit that description. Starbucks would get the commuters or people who would otherwise wait until they got home to use their Keurig machine. Different market segments.

    • If La Mano’s coffee is so great (i.e. better than Starbucks) then why would they immediately go out of business? If there coffee (or something else about their business model) is substandard, then competition will push them out and the community will benefit from a better business.

      Don’t get me wrong, I never go to Starbucks. I like living in Takoma, but the anti-development, anti-commercialism, stuck in the 60s crap drives me crazy. I’m looking forward to the changing demographics in the neighborhood.

      • I haven’t been to La Mano, but Starbucks is able to keep their costs down via economies of scale and can thus underprice many indie coffee shops. Consumers are much more price-sensitive than you seem to think. Many could likely forgo the (presumably) more expensive, better tasting coffee for something that’s cheap and consistently palatable.

        • Right, so if the community of buyers prefers lower cost coffee then that’s what the market demands. You shouldn’t exclude competition in order to shield companies that either can’t do as good of a job, or can only do a good job more expensively.

          If people really value small businesses, then they will be more willing to pay for their coffee.

          My sense (based on living in Takoma) is that the old school residents want local businesses but are too cheap to pay for them (see recent criticisms of Taco-ma prices)

        • You’re not wrong in principle, but I don’t think the average Starbucks consumer is discount shopping. And they certainly aren’t there for the better tasking coffee.

          • You may know more than I about the average Starbucks shopper, but I’m willing to bet that they’re most certainly “discount shoppers” (assuming there are better-tasting options readily available). “I need a palatable source of cheap caffeine” is the sort of mind frame that comes to mind.

          • My point is only that I’m not sure there’s a large volume of people who would describe Starbucks’ brewed coffee as cheap or palatable, let alone both.

          • SouthwestDC

            Starbucks coffee is terrible on its own, but it works so well with flavored syrups and whipped cream. When I’m in the mood for a 500-calorie drink that’s more like a dessert than coffee I go to Starbucks. They do it so much better than anyone else.

          • justinbc

            You should try Saxby’s for that.

          • SouthwestDC

            Never heard of Saxby’s. Where are they located? I only get fancy coffee drinks a few times a year, but it’s always during the workday and I don’t think there are any near my workplace.
            Anyway, my point is that the majority of Starbucks customers are there for the ridiculous concoctions, not the coffee. Or because it’s the closest thing around.

          • There are a handful of Saxby’s around downtown (Dupont and McPherson spring to mind).
            People I know go to Starbucks for lattes or other espresso drinks, not for the fanciful dessert concoctions. I can’t imagine that people buy enough Brownie Mint Caramel Mocha Frappucinos to keep it in business if that were the majority of its sales.

    • Maybe it should be up to customers to decide which businesses survive and which do not? The independent coffee shop movement would hardly exist if Starbucks hadn’t created demand for Italian-style coffee culture in the United States. I’m not saying I prefer Starbucks to local shops. I don’t. But many of these indie coffee shops owe their customers and even their inspiration to Starbucks.

      • “Maybe it should be up to customers to decide which businesses survive and which do not? ”

        maybe you shouldnt argue with a straw man.

        • You sure that’s a straw man? It looks to me like there is at least some support for setting artificial barriers to entry for this business. If there isn’t, then I retract.

    • I would think that if any community would continue to support the local indy coffee shop instead of going to Starbucks it’d be the PRTK.

  • There goes the neighborhood!

  • I don’t get why this is such a threat. I am not a coffee drinker, but I know a ton of coffee drinkers who hate Starbucks coffee. Presumably those folks won’t be patronizing this Starbucks.
    Presumably the people who hate the idea of Starbucks won’t be going here either.
    In terms of what I will buy from Starbucks – chai or green tea lattes, regular tea, the occasional pastry – I don’t find them to be much cheaper or expensive than the “artisanal” shops I have been in.
    So what’s wrong with people having a choice? Why is there a presumption that Starbucks is going to drive some local shop out of business?

  • #CrunchyGranolaWorldProblems

    • SouthwestDC

      Ha, seriously though, I spent the summer in a Midwestern town where the closest Starbucks was an hour away. The people there would love to have this problem 🙂

  • Love the title of this post 🙂 I for one welcome our Starbucks overlords….. I live in Takoma Park but closer to the DC side than to the main strip so I’d be perfectly happy if they decide to just open up, say, in the new and empty space next to Busboys (that’s DC and so the crazies in my town won’t have a say). But then again, I’d also be really happy if Starbucks decided to go balls out and try to open up on the strip. Those community meetings would be truly epic…..

    • Ha. Your comment made me laugh.
      I agree that the spot next to Busboys is a likely location (new building, big space), but that’s a little too close to La Mano for my taste. I’d like a Starbucks on 4th Street – it could help to revitalize that strip and would bring more commerce to the DC side. I’m just not sure if any of the spaces on that strip would be large enough.

    • There’s also that space at the corner of Willow St and Eastern Ave…that’s pretty close to where those new townhouses are going up. I won’t be surprised if that’s the space they’re looking at.

  • Vote with your wallets NIMBYs.

  • No. Absolutely not. I’m all for Starbarks on the road – its definitely the interstate option for overpriced but drinkable road coffee, but seriously? Not in Takoma. So doesn’t belong there. Ugh.

    If you ever want to know about how low Starbarks goes, read this

  • If Takoma can tolerate a 7-11, then I don’t see the problem with Starbucks. Actually, I do, but it’s this kind of thing that makes DC so entertaining. Just wait til they come to Mt Pleasant!

  • I read an article many years ago about how one Starbucks strategy for moving into an area was to try and buy out existing coffee shops. If that didn’t work they would move in anyway – often right across the street and would likely dive the other business out of business. This was years ago so I don’t know if that is still the case and how strong a strategy it was in the first place. I do know that it it was a strategy, it was a strategy that didn’t always work – it may depend on if a local place has its own cult/following that won’t flock to Starbucks. Starbucks didn’t succeed in NOLA all that well because the local coffee is very much an institution but it was fun watching them try. One of their places across the street from a local place eventually closed down and never came back after Katrina. They now have a few places and seem to succeed there because the non-natives bringing their coffee habits with them have gotten habituated to it and don’t drink the local brew (chicory coffee is not for everyone – particularly if it isn’t done right). Of course Starbucks has proved that coffee shops near to each other don’t necessarily cannibalize each other business – though that may apply to Starbucks and not other places.

  • Bring back Taliano’s!

  • I Dont Get It

    That’s not this year’s Starbucks holiday cup.

  • People (like me ) move to Old Town TKPK for the local charm. Not for that much-needed store-bought 9pm cup o’Joe. What’s that all about, anyway?

  • Takoma residents will have the full opportunity to not patronize this store if they don’t support it. I don’t see any issues.

  • I don’t like in TP but it’s one of my frequent stomping grounds. When I’m there and want coffee I go to La Mano and La Mano only. I won’t ever spend money in Starbucks in any case. I basically don’t eat out much at all, so when I do i go small and local.

  • Does Starbucks ever really put top notch small coffee shops out of business? People complained when there was going to be a Starbucks in the Petworth Safeway, but I don’t see Qualia suffering. The two don’t really compete that directly – different customer base.

  • The Subway used to get periodically vandalized. I guess everyone got bored with it being there in the end.

    • There is already a Starbucks 3/4 of a mile from La Mano (in the Safeway on Piney Branch).

      Clearly there is a market for it.

      Takoma people are crazy.

  • Studies have shown that having a Starbucks in the neighborhood actually increases business for local coffee shops. The presence of Starbucks allows consumers from outside the neighborhood to think of the area as a “coffee destination”, so that if they stop by and the Starbucks is full (or very busy) they’ll look for other coffee options in the area (e.g., La Mano). As Takoma is right now, there’s little reason for a person from outside the neighborhood to come in and spend her money there, unless she is specifically going to one of the niche specialty shops there. The last time I visited Takoma, it was frustrating to see so little of general interest; I soon left, and it’s been months since I’ve been back.

  • I love the small town feel of TKP, but really do wish more businesses would come to the area. The empty theater is a depressing for the neighborhood, I think we can do better!

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