Saturday, July 5, 2008

Starbucks: The Retrenchment of the Third Place

Does anyone out there know if the Newburyport Starbucks is on the hit list?

Alex Beam is often on-target and I think he nails this one. I was studying for a Masters in Business in the late 1990's and I got sick of reading case studies about the brilliance of the Starbucks concept. The real concept was more along the lines of Big Tobacco....add lots of nicotine/caffeine, pretend it's not addictive, expand the delivery system, and max out the customer base.

Of course coffee doesn't post would be more coherent but I haven't finished my second cup o' joe.


Tom Salemi said...

I hit Dunkin' a few mornings each week after exercising. It's the only time of day when I interact with men and women who actually work for a living.

-Alex Beam
Boston Globe


Says a lot about why the Globe is suffering, no?

Seriously, I think Alex Beam usually comes off as a jerk. To be fair though I stopped reading him years ago because of that fact, so perhaps he's lightened up on his jerkfullness.

Or not.

I do think there has to be something to this "third place" stuff. I see Plum Island Roasters as being exactly that on days when it just isn't pleasant enough to sit along the board walk.

Yes, I do sometimes settle down with my laptop to work or read the papers (for free.) I'm not sure I qualify as a hobo, but whatever.

Anyway, to the point, the Starbucks cutbacks aren't really that surprising, are they? Isn't this just a classic case of overreach?

Starbucks moved away from its original mission and went for carpetbombing cities with its coffee shops thereby diminishing the value of the brand.

I think a little retrenchment is healthy, for the company, not for the employees. But I take no glee in it.

As for Dunkin Donuts, as a kid I woke up every Sunday morning to a box of Dunkin Donuts on the kitchen table. (Might explain the childhood obesity.) I drank the coffee through high school and college but then something happened.

DnD also overreached, and I had a hard time finding a consistently good cup of coffee. It'd be weak, burned or just bad.

So I moved on. I actually prefer Honey Dew now, which would have been grounds for exile as a child.

So I can't sign onto the lionizing of Dunkin Donuts by guilt-ridden white collar elitists like Beam who go there to interact with "real folks."

I suspect the entire class of folks who "actually work for a living" don't share single thoughts or preferences.

I'd be willing to be more than a few can be found at Starbucks, Plum Island Roasters or an equivalent enjoying a better cup of coffee.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ed,

According to the article in the Wall Street Journal, underperforming, duplicative outlets are to be closed. No particular locations were mentioned in the article, but it doubtful that the Newburyport location will be one of them.
James Shanley

Ed Cameron said...

Tom, thanks for the autobiography of a caffeine addict.

I never touched the stuff til after college. At 25 yrs of age in 1987, working the 11pm-7am shift at the Pine Street Inn, the 'coffee run' to the North Station Dunkin Donuts became an essential ritual where co-workers would fight for the right to go fetch for the others.

In my ideal world, Plum Island Coffee Roaster and Caffe Di Siena would have coffee supremacy in Newburyport with the Richdale DD getting enough business to complement the convenience shopping.

Tom Salemi said...

The unintended consequences

Ari Herzog said...

It's fair to presume Newburyport's Starbucks is not closing.

Straight from the horse's mouth, Starbucks management state that closed stores will be those with underperforming statistics and oopened since the beginning of fiscal 2006.

As someone wrote in to the Boston Globe's forum on the subject, the closures may focus in retail markets, e.g. malls, and not urban markets.