See there are these two Starbucks, or maybe three. The first is the one we all see, or think we see; the eclectic baristas(as a one time real bartender, I take a bit of an exception to that). This Starbucks plays cool music. Everybody sort has an ultra-hip vibe going. They get really pissy if you call a venti-sized coffee a large. Been to Italy. Never saw the “venti” in any cafe. They just have one item on the menu: Coffee. Una cafe, per favore. Gratzie!
The second Starbucks is the corporation. It is, to be fair, logistics, marketing, inventory and supply. They are huge, growing in just a shade over 40 years to more than 20,000 locations in better than 60 countries. Italy is not one of those countries. You’d be safer insulting the Pope in St Peter’s Square than trying to open a Starbucks in Milan.
You’d think with that sort of success that they could construct a business strategy that wouldn’t entail bullying small independent coffee shops. With that edgy hipster marketing facade, and impassioned words from CE Howard Schultz about the worrisome problems “sapping our national spirit,” one my hope for a conscience rare among the tend of predatory corporations gobbling up main street independents.
Recently Schultz wrote in an open letter “Millions of Americans are out of work. Many more are working tirelessly yet still unable to adequately care for their families. Our veterans are not being welcomed home with the level of support they deserve. Meanwhile, in our nation’s capital, our elected leaders are continuing to put ideology over real solutions. I love America, but we all know there is something wrong…Let’s ask our business leaders to create more job opportunities for the American economy”
Schultz is famous for recalling his humble beginning, claiming to come from a working class family. Which brings me to the third Starbucks. Chronic in this nation nowadays is lawyerism, corporate spin and politicians so beholden to their own hypocrisy that they lie regardless that they know we are aware they are lying. Remember the weapons of mass destruction, smoking gun analogies that dragged us into the Iraq War? Chronic in this nation are corporations that recreate, or attempt to recreate an alternate reality to mask their truest intentions. They tell the big lie to us and to themselves.
Despite the wonderfully poetic words of Mister Schultz’ Starbucks has acted like a caffeine-charged Walmart, driving the mom and pop shops on mainstreet that we all wax-poetic over in nostalgic moments. Walmart crushed out of existence the corner RX and the mainstreet Five and Dime. Starbucks has their own prey. I personally experienced an artsy independent in Chicago some years ago driven out of business by Starbucks, who undercut and out-competed with their mammoth and huge reserves not to win market-share in the neighborhood, but to take the entire market for themselves.
And now they are at it yet again. The “great green cancer” is poised to drive another independent out of business in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. And what makes even more galling is that there is ample business in the neighborhood for both survive. For Starbucks, apparently, sharing isn’t enough.
The “Green Cancer” isn’t mine. It’s a great line. I wish it was. It belongs to Dave McLaughlin of The Safari Cup cafe, an independent coffeehouse. he fears they’ve used their money and power to influence the local Alderman and Chamber of Commerce to directly attack Safari Cup. McLaughlin remains defiant. We’re not going anywhere,” he says, digging in for a battle in which his business hangs firmly in the balance.
McLaughlin’s Irish accented obstinacy isn’t easily put off from a natural whimsy, but it is very obviously strained By Starbuck’s actions, saying “they spread themselves to destroy any competition…Starbucks is running this ad campaign. It’s all bullshit.”
This fight is just beginning. In fairness I have reached out to Starbucks. The Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, and the Alderman for Chicago’s 44th Ward will be the subject of future pieces as 900poundgorilla and WCPT follow the story closely. Still waiting to hear from Starbucks. The sooner the better, would be my wish, because silence speaks volumes, and often tells the lies some would wish to keep hidden.
Catch 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck every Sunday 8-9am only on Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT am820 and streaming live for the Revolution and Beer segment, as Brian and I sample the Craft Beer of the week with the Our Town gang, and run down the grassroots calendar for the week. If you’re tired of talk, talk, talk radio, this is do something radio. Get involved.