Here’s an interesting quandary. Starbucks makes plenty effort to act and appear socially responsible (and arguably so in different aspects of its products); yet, simultaneously disrupts local economies with its entree into local markets. They’ve given local cafes a run for their money, and if you’re in New York City, Starbucks appears just over the horizon at every turn, like McDonald’s golden arches. Starbucks may indeed want me to believe they can just blend in to the local scene…this time, with wine and cheese.
Yeah, I like wine and cheese, a dusky dim backdrop, an evening ensemble and laptop… But I don’t think Starbucks can deliver what I think local suppliers can; at least, I’m pro-biodiversity and economic diversity. The demand for localization has been a major response for numerous issues including food security and energy efficiency; it’s also been levied as a response to the financial crisis and a characteristic of sustainable economic development.
Nevertheless, things could get tough for local cafes that don’t work on reinventing their models to be inclusive of different types of occasions or make themselves inextricable to the community. Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC is a great example of how a local establishment has blossomed by providing an open outlet for many types of social occasions and even forms of entertainment–all based on the involvement of the local (phenomenal) community. The heart of the two restaurant-bar-bookstore-open mic lounge-activist-gathering-site is it’s embracing diversity to establish itself as a hub of social activity and inspiration.
Another local alternative based in Louisiana is Community Coffee. Community Coffee started out around 1919 or so as a brand of roasted coffee sold ground or whole bean. They’ve recently followed suit (I believe taking a cue from Starbucks) by opening cafe establishments in Baton Rouge. “In 1980, Community introduced the nation’s first vacuum-sealed coffee package.” Who knew? Louisianans take pride in our coffee culture. (Where else does one see traditional demitasse cups collected so widely? )
But Community Coffee had been a supplier, not an establishment. Other local outlets in Baton Rouge existed before they popped up. I used to frequent places like Coffee Call, a late night beignet spot, serviced by some of the same kitchen crew over the last 20 years. They have the regional signature cafe au lait on tap, but do not have a website. Or Perks, a quaint and quiet date spot for poets or hideaway for hippies. And there are yet others, Baton Rouge being a college town.
So seeing Community Coffee pop up against this backdrop of other interesting, local, coffee-touting, dugouts is a little disappointing when the decour looks like Starbucks, and so do it’s hours. Community Coffee needs more community flair if they are going to succeed. Otherwise, Starbucks might just try to buy them out, “Hey, great real estate, nice facilities–that look just like ours, they’re late in the game and not protected by the fiercely loyal, local tribe. How much can we offer them?”
Starbucks has slowly seeped into the Louisiana market, and if they start offering alcohol and later hours and more community engagement, they may make a serious dent. Baton Rougians love they’re heritage and culture, and they love a reason to drink up, too.