The 'Anti-Starbucks' Starbucks by Jim Hightower
12 Aug 2009
With Starbucks' sales declining as more and more caffeine consumers reject the cookie-cutter corporate climate that the chain epitomizes, it is launching a new line of stores that disappears its name. There's no corporate signage on the new buildings, no logo stamped on every product inside and none of the generically bland ambience that makes one Starbucks just like the other 16,000 in the chain.
Instead, the new shops strive to be the anti-Starbucks, dressing up as funky neighborhood coffeehouses with a cool, local vibe. A sort of rustic, thrift-shop decor screens the corporate presence, and such additions as live music and poetry readings are meant to lend an aura of down-home authenticity.
The first of these faux local outlets opened last month in Seattle under the nom de commerce of "15th Avenue Coffee and Tea," taken from the name of its neighborhood. Future stores are also expected to appropriate the names of their neighborhoods all across the country in a corporate effort to convey a sense of belonging. The idea, as explained by the chain's senior vice president of global design, is to give each of the coffeehouses "a community personality."
What we have here, of course, is a willful attempt to commit consumer fraud. But it's such a goofy fraud that it's doomed to be an embarrassing failure. Corporate chains can't do "community," can't do "funky," can't do "cool," can't do "independent" — because they're not. They're not any of those things. Starbucks is what it is. The corporate nature will always come out.