Letter to the Editor – Starbucks Alternatives

Moira Gillick

In response to Raffaella Dietz’s March 29 article entitled, “Starbucks to Open Fall ’07”, I am glad to learn there is “rising concern” among students about a competitive threat to local businesses – otherwise, it would seem that the message of the Upstate Institute is lost in translation from talking about the local community to addressing campus issues.

Chris Hoffman has written a good anti-Starbucks Letter to the Editor, in which she questions bringing a company with “ethically questionable practices” to Hamilton. I am writing, however, to dispute the school’s logic in choosing Starbucks, as explained in Ms. Dietz’s article, and to advocate for alternatives. First, I find the school’s logic in choosing Starbucks to be flawed because it seems the persons quoted in the article have not separated a caf?e “space” from the brand “Starbucks”. Ms. Schneider, a librarian, endorses the need for a caf?e in the library, a notion with which I absolutely agree. However, the indirect quote of Mr. Spiro suggests that caf?e equals Starbucks (which is not necessarily so). Choosing the little green seal does not make the space “special”, the space will grow as the users want it to.

If anything, Starbucks does not promote group work. Bryant Simon, Professor of History at Temple University, is writing a book due out next year about the culture of consumption, and the type of culture that is consumed at Starbucks in particular. When I met with him in London last year, he pointed out that people socialize with the people they come into the store with and that group size dictates activity; the small circle tables allow for either three people to sit comfortably around the table and talk, or one person to stack books and study. Therefore, it is not inviting. There are already 13,168 Starbucks stores in 39 countries. The company plans to open 10,000 more stores in the next four years (seven a day, or 1 every 3.5 hours) by expanding overseas in non-traditional markets and in smaller communities. These areas might be the next frontier for the company, but breaking into small communities is already difficult as local citizens have become activists promoting the preservation of their small-town values and the unique character of their place.

Moira GillickClass of 2004