Last we visited I was telling you the story of Safari Cup Coffee in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood under threat from a nearby Starbucks who is trying to put little independent Safari Cup out of business. In fairness to all concerned. I have reached out to the Alderman, Tom Tunney,the local Chamber of Commerce’s Heather Way and Starbucks. So far, none of them have responded. I’ll keep trying.
There are two fights here. the first, and most urgent to Safari Cup’s Dave McLaughlin is the fight to save his business. His very loyal friends and customers have gotten involved. There isn’t a need for this sort of fight. There’s plenty of business for all, in fact, the Starbucks down the block does just fine, but they apparently want all of the pie. To get it they have no remorse at all for drawing down on Safari Cup. More is a never ending word.
McLaughlin himself has a bigger perspective. “In the end, literally everything depends on where the guy or gal on the street spends their money. If they cut back on spending their hard-earned income at corporate entities like the Green Cancer, Walmart, Georgia Pacific etc, etc, and spend it with the Mom and Pop retailers, the impact would be phenomenal.”
So it’s all about the marketplace, the cold hard realities of a dog eat dog, winner take all, take no prisoners marketplace? If that’s the case, then the real fight is becoming epic as a David verus Goliath square-off, and there’s nothing anyone can do but see how it all plays out. That would place the struggle firmly between a giant corporation who wants to eliminate any and all competition and take the entire marketplace for itself and a small business man who just wants to keep the doors open. Safari Cup is in this fight for its life.
But is it really winner take all, regardless of the firepower one side brings to the fight? Is that what we’ve come to in this country? So it really isn’t about supply and demand, and giving good quality and service and carving out a niche in the market. It is about power and the luxury of welding it fully and ruthlessly. How very Ayn Rand. Sound heartless, immoral and unfair? That was the impression left by Bennett Lawson from Alderman Tom Tunney’s office when he said there’s nothing illegal about what Starbucks is doing.
“I don’t want to speak for the marketplace,” said Lawson, “but there is nothing to stop Starbucks from doing what they are doing.”
That seems a bit short-sighted, and hardly a solution for a troubled economy that would benefit more from vibrant, healthy small businesses and private entrepreneurship, over the fickleness of out-of-town corporations, whose only responsibility is to profit rather than community. One model drives living wages and pride in community. The other drives for the extreme bottom-line in wages and has only a cursory interest in community.
When asked about zoning changes, Lawson was adamant that no new zoning changes had taken place. What Starbucks was doing, or is suspected on doing, he pointed out, was, though disagreeable, was well within their rights. but again, in a city in which Alderpersons run their wards like little fiefdoms, that too seems suspect.
It will be interesting to hear the Alderman’s thoughts on this hotly and bitterly brewing battle. When asked if he would appear on the radio program Sunday I was told that Alderman Tunney would be busy running his own business. Not Three minutes later Mister Lawson said the Alderman was available because he was out of town. While neither is mutually exclusive, it sounds like a bit of a run-around.
As the fight heats up, it will be important to know where the Alderman stands; With an honest business man trying to keep his doors open, or an out-of-town corporation, the “green cancer” if you will, who is trying to crush him out of existence.
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