Downtown Starbucks Debate: What's Your View?

Is it a "heartless slap in the face" for the megachain to take a prominent corner location opposite a small local café in downtown Napa? Or do you think "Starbucks lifts everybody's game?" Join the discussion!


The debate continues over a Starbucks coffee shop that has applied to the city for permission to make design changes to a prominent downtown corner storefront. Here's last week:

: How can you have a downtown without a which is so much more than a chain coffee retailer. They are a lounge with plenty of comfy furniture, wi-fi, and without the din of a place like . So think of it has a mini community center. The is cramped, the space unappealing. But now people have a choice, which is always good. And Starbucks lifts everyone's game. ...

: ... Bounty Hunter isn't a coffee shop. Not a good comparison. Just a block and a half away exists a very nice place that just opened it's doors and it is exactly as you described Starbucks (comfy and wifi etc.) and it was even featured here on Napa Patch. My wife is an avid coffee drinker and likes Starbucks but she would tell you that Weavers Coffee, which features, is light years ahead of what Starbucks offers.

: ... Starbucks doesn't belong in the heart of downtown, directly across from a coffee shop that has been in business since 1985. Money spent at a local business is spent locally and is need for a healthy economic ecosytem. Money spent at Starbucks, leaves the community immediately. Sure Starbucks gives... to Africa and others in need. Bottom line is this location is wrong! It will shut down NVCRC. Example: Petaluma, CA., 1994-2006, Deaf Dog Coffee...Starbucks caused this cafe to fold when they moved directly across the street. ...

: I would like to see a Starbucks go in at Third St where the former Hedgerow flower shop was it's a great location for tourists and locals alike.

 There are ... 8 Starbucks in Napa! Let's keep the money local!

: Being a just give me a cup-of-coffee lover, I haven't gone to Starbucks in a long time. Their coffee is super bitter... and I have had it taste the same across the US. When Consumer Reports came out with a blind tasting a few years ago they had Starbucks on the bottom of the list and McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts of all places on top... I felt vindicated. Now they do make a mean Mocha.... but I have long since given the high calorie, fat, cost coffees out of my diet.... So I will continue to support the Napa Valley Roasting Company just out of pure taste preference.... Now if Peet's moved in that space all bets are off...

: I love coffee, really love it. Starbucks is "ok," I frequent it time to time, more so because of time and convenience. 

Keep Starbucks out of Downtown Napa. And Napa Roasting Co, you better get w/it. Last time I was there...Meh.

: According to the manager at CRC in St Helena, Starbucks and CRC use the same beans. They roast them differently.

Just reading this it is clear that people have different subjective experiences of coffee, different interests. I think Starbucks is ok but mediocre. Everything I get there is loaded with sugar.

My problem is that over the long term if we keep filling downtown with chains like this it will fail. What works in the short term may not in the long term. Why would anyone visit Napa or drive downtown if you live here to go to Starbucks?

On the other hand, people do go to for their unique shops. We need unique, local shops to make it interesting. We can stand a few chains, but they don't add much.

These are just some of the 19 comments on our article , where Tom Merle, R. Garrett and Scott Yeager continued their discussion in several other posts.

Over on Facebook, the article drew a half-dozen comments, none complimentary to the coffee giant:

Kelly Adams really? another one? I don't think we need to add more to the already too many we have

Katie Chauncy NO! They are everywhere. I do frequent some of them but I think downtown is better reserved for places like , NV coffee and even . The "real" stuff!

Jennifer Cody No more! Napa has enough of them.

Michael Andrew Carolan Ya can't stop them they are going to come any ways. With the I expect more chain Rest. and Stores to come in. It's better than empty store fronts...

Amy Shier-Heathcote Not across from Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company, it's a heartless slap in the face. We need to support our small businesses especially those who give back to our community.

Paris Petrick I agree with Amy! I find this in poor taste, I can't imagine that the city would even consider delivering such a hard blow to the Napa Valley Roasting Company! Perhaps I could get on board if they were in the plaza where a draw is needed and where there is no real threat to established local businesses.

What do you think? If you haven't weighed in yet, please let us know in the comments; we also have a purely non-scientific poll.

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Matt Grantham May 16, 2012 at 02:46 PM
As for Ms Ackermans comments, i will just address one for now since i am posting a lot today. She posits that starbucks is a job creator. while it is true that upstart capital plays a role in creating an establishment in the first place there are alternative for communities to provide upstatart capital themselves as opposed to the banksters who simp[ly create money out of thin air and then often use such contrivances to fund global corporations such as Starbucks. Anyway the real point is that baristas and the like are funded by wage earners who have the money to buy coffee. Starbucks is no more than a place holder to allow wage earners to spend their wages at and are not the "job creators' that the phantaasmagorical right has deluded themselves into believing in
Scott Yeager May 16, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Again, to repeat myself once more, my issue is with your obsession with and publicity type hyping of Starbucks going into that space and what seems like your inability to comprehend something else going in instead. If you had read my previous posts then you would know that the owner is looking at multiple offers, as in Starbucks is just one of the merchants interested in that space. As for me putting something else in that space, I have no power to do so, and I suspect, neither do you. I don't have to offer an alternative there are already multiple offers for the space that the owner will decide on. For the record I have no problem with chains it is just that I and others noticed there are 7 of them in Napa already so the thought of yet another in town is boring saturation and not special in any way.
tom merle May 16, 2012 at 04:43 PM
It is simply not true that a proponent has the same burden of proof than an adversary in this instance. We are not deciding on a use in the abstract, as though we are doing a charette (look it up) There is a real offer, apparently, on the table. Absent other offers this may well go forward and because I support this use I say OK go for it. But in the marketplace my opinion matters not. Those who seek to block this transaction, however, must come up with an alternative, a real option, not an idea about Napa downtown. In this regard it shares the Napa Pipe situation, though at Napa Pipe, the government decision makers can veto a use, not so on one small space on a corner. But the haters of Napa Pipe would stand on firmer ground if they had identified some other real world alternatives for this land.
tom merle May 16, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Yes, in America building owners can choose whom to rent to, assuming the tenant meets the planning and zoning documents. No central bureaucracy can do this, nor can the citizens issue a veto. Opponents can only push back on whether the use fits the broad land use criteria. They do not decide on brands. It is true that cities can set up kinds of criteria, as they did in Carmel and certain parts of SF, that have the effect of preventing chains from coming into a part of town, but this doesn't exist in Napa. Lastly, your comment presumes that there is an "economic community as a whole". What, where, who makes up such a community? The majority of the people who took the Patch poll? Again, in American we protect the rights of minorities, including those who own property, to act to use that property within bounds. No one is entitled to speak for some construct like the whole community. It doesn't exist.
tom merle May 16, 2012 at 05:01 PM
That there is one or 10 other Starbucks around Napa is irrelevant. A city is broken into neighborhoods. There is no Starbucks downtown. Bring it on. A troll usually means someone who wanders in to a discussion uninvited and inserts comments that cause disruption. Glad to play this role since I do dislike mob mentality.
tom merle May 16, 2012 at 05:06 PM
The dynamism of the market determines uses within boundaries. The owner deserves income. While a building sits empty awaiting other possible tenants, Mr Grantham and the other opponents really should put us the rent money while we wait to see if other users step up. But as we know there is an abundance of empty space downtown, so presumably over time we will have a mix of retailers.
Catherine George May 16, 2012 at 05:57 PM
The community actually exists, whether you choose to recognize it or not. The community is us, all of us who live here, who care about our town. Yes, of course we should have a say in what happens to our town. Why wouldn't we? Ideally there is a balance between community and business interests. They do not have to be at odds. And with local business, they aren't. Just because Starbucks does some good things for the community, has a lounge and wi-fi, etc, does not excuse it's predatory behavior. I know, Starbucks does do some really wonderful things. I was lured into a Starbucks in SF one evening, joining a standing-room-only packed audience to hear a talk by an author, a former child soldier from Africa (I forget which country, sorry) who had written a book about his experiences. We need more of this kind of stuff in Napa - author's talks, lectures, live music, art, everything. But we don't have to have a Starbucks do this for us, we could have a locally owned shop. Why do we have to have Starbucks? I lived in Boulder, CO, for a bit, and absolutely loved going to "The Laughing Goat". It's tiny and cramped, but it's always busy and lively. The coffee is the best I've ever had anywhere. They also have amazing soups and stews, sandwiches, pastries, local beer, etc. They have music or poetry every night. They are a real community gathering place. http://thelaughinggoat.com
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) May 16, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Community member Rick Molinari, in whose comfortable Main Street café I am currently using the wi-fi while sipping a coffee drink, has an intriguing suggestion for the corner space: Moylan's, a brew pub and restaurant from Novato. Would Napa Local oppose a second brew pub in the vicinity of Downtown Joe's?
Matt Grantham May 17, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Yes, in America building owners can choose whom to rent to, Basically not true. At a minimum this right you refer to is granted through laws that allow for such private property rights by the governed and not the other way around. However that does not mean that i do not believe the populace should think long and hard about the nature of private property rights and in most cases uphold fairly strong property rights. But let us not forget who it is that is granting such rights- It is in fact the will of the people who will decide the nature of property rights. i am all for private home and business ownership, but when ownership becomes a game or simply for market manipulation without concern for the good of community and nations then I would suggest it is time for the public, who grants such rights, to reconsider the question.
Matt Grantham May 17, 2012 at 12:34 AM
I am sorry but Mr Merles post at 10;08 is kind of unintelligble for me. Apparently I am supposed to put up money for landlords who need to provide no explanation for their failure to rent their properties. Whatevfer happened to the idea of accepting what the market will bear? I am sure there are tennants interested in renting the properties yet the owner chooses to hold out for higher rents. Not to mention the idea that charging high rents on bulidings, whether they are occupied or not, is part of the formula in deciding property value. So lets get off the high horse about the deserving property owners when some of them are simply taking our downtowns hostage to play their little game of perverse incentives
Matt Grantham May 17, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Louisa . I do not claim to speak for Napa Local, but in general i belieive that they, as well as myself, are more interested in having these questions decided by democratic means as opposed to a prescriptive one size fits all approach. Obviously whether the second brew pub was locally owned would be an important factor in the scenario .Also while the intent of the second pub's entry into the area is going to be difficult to discern i would nonetheless suggest that to is an important factor. If all the downtown pubs are bursting at the seems with business then that would be suggestive of a need for an additional pub. However if the intent is to drive existing business out of business then that might need to be viewed in a different context. I am not much of a fan of Schumpeter and the like
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) May 17, 2012 at 01:28 AM
This is a fascinating thread and I want to invite anyone to create a blog post if you feel the comments section here is limiting your ability to express your complete thoughts. Your post goes live on Napa Patch as soon as you click "submit," and nobody's hit the word limit yet! Thank you all for taking part so forthrightly in this dialogue.
Michael Haley May 17, 2012 at 03:07 AM
The eyeglass store was doing well and would have stayed there except the landlord was going to raise the rent in anticipation of getting the Starbucks which could pay more. I say get a Hooters because they could also pay a whole lot more rent and double as a brew pub.
tom merle May 17, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Since Mr. Grantham can't understand what I wrote, and I have no idea what he is writing, this is where I exit. Before I do, I suggest that the latté lefties have a look at the piece that ran in the Register today http://napavalleyregister.com/news/opinion/mailbag/there-is-nothing-wrong-with-a-little-competition/article_6c51dbc8-9f16-11e1-8d07-0019bb2963f4.html
Catherine George May 17, 2012 at 04:16 AM
Well Tom, it's only appropro (sp?), since we are talking about A COFFEE PLACE!!! ; ) Sorry, couldn't resist that one. Latté lefties = too funny.
Matt Grantham May 17, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Interesting someone could claim to have not understand what I have written but at the same time claim that he understands my writings well enough to be sure I do not understand his writings. How could i miss what tom is saying since i have heard it a thousand times
tom merle May 17, 2012 at 06:50 AM
MG: The only understandable part was that you found my post "kind of unintelligible" Louisa: this guy really knows how to shut down a thread. Too bad. And I know now to stay away from any exchange where he inserts himself.
Karen Garcia May 17, 2012 at 02:04 PM
We're really talking about two different levels of retail competition, aren't we? Two Mom-and-Pops selling the same items, dependent on small business loans and trying to fill a need within the community to make a living, could open across the street from each other and duke it out on a truly level economic playing field (although, truthfully, I doubt that they'd do that. They'd have the good sense to open a few blocks away from each other). The one with the best service, amenities, reputation and prices will do better and will probably run the other out of business. I think most would agree that's fair competition. But how can that type of business compete fairly with a giant multinational corporation whose one and only goal is to make money and who has infinitely deep pockets to make that happen? Let's recognize that our economic landscape just isn't the same now as it was in the past. The rise of huge corporate chain stores has changed all that. We as a community (and yes, community DOES exist, like it or not) have rights too. Downtown Napa isn't the wild west of the 1800s, where one's individual property rights trumped all other considerations, though I know some would like to go back to those "good old days" or even imagine that they never ended.
tom merle May 17, 2012 at 05:12 PM
The size of a company is irrelevant when it comes to coffeehouses (we are not talking about Amazon vs. the corner bookstore). References to mom and pops, items, loans, giant multinationals are abstractions. The qualities of an appealing coffeehouse can be offered by a non chain like Molinari's. Community, another abstraction, can be brought out of the clouds when residents patronize the non chain coffeehouse because of they prefer the product, price, space, service, etc. Not unlike restaurants. The protection of property rights is the mark of a civil society. They are hardly representative of the wild west when force not the rule of law prevailed. These rights are not unfettered, however, They must fit within the policy (community) framework laid out in health and safety laws, zoning restrictions, and the like. Just don't let a mob, meaning a group of ideologues no matter how well intentioned, determine who gets to fit within the policies.
Catherine George May 17, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Tom - with all due respect, what you are saying is quite bonkers, to use a technical term. It seems that you are having trouble telling the difference between reality and abstraction. This is a rare talent that you might try putting toward creating abstract art! And there just can't be enough art in the world! I thank you in advance for your contribution to the art world.
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau May 17, 2012 at 05:56 PM
I don't buy coffee at NVCRC, for personal reasons, and if I plan on enjoying a cup of coffee while shopping I'll go someplace in town near another coffee house. I don't care if it's Starbucks, Peet's, or some other company, but if there's coffee available (besides NVCRC) at the gateway to First Street/Downtown then I'll gladly stroll through downtown with a cuppa Joe in one hand and my wallet in the other. Then, with my added revenue, the existing businesses will thrive and the area will become more attractive, drawing in more accommodating businesses to fill the vacant storefronts. Then I'll shop downtown even more. So, just having the choice to buy my coffee from someone else besides NVCRC engages me to contribute my effort to help downtown. Yep, been to Molinari, delicious.
tom merle May 17, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Catherine: why not use argument rather than just name calling to make your point. These sorts of posts, compared to Steve's meaty comment following yours, are the reason why threads go off the rails.
Karen Garcia May 18, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Tom: would you please explain what you mean when you say, "References to mom and pops, items, loans, giant multinationals [and 'community'] are abstractions"? Do you mean the words are abstractions, or that they themselves don't have any influence on the real world? I'm asking this is all seriousness. I think I'm not the only one who's confused about what you mean.
Catherine George May 18, 2012 at 05:53 AM
Tom - you're absolutely right, and I apologize. I do not normally resort to such retorts. I completely agree that there are better ways to make a point. Not that it's an excuse, but I'm just so tired of having this conversation. And I do think that what you said about actual things that are real being abstractions is just patently false.
Matt Grantham May 18, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Private property is an abstraction
Scott Yeager May 18, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Could Moylan's be one of the other businesses interested in the space besides Starbucks? Could be! I have no problem with competition. Rabid dogmatism and narrow vision is completely different.
tom merle May 18, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Glad that finally someone gets the distinction between an untethered generalization and a specific manifestation or context where all sorts of actual restrictions and rights apply.
Matt Grantham May 19, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Yes only some of us get untethered generalizations versus specific manifestations. I was just wondering though when you say specific manifestations do you mean in the subjective Cartesian sense or more in the world of the undeniable forms of logic presented by Frege. No matter, the fact you refer to the specific manifestaions or 'context' of so and so, kind of ruins it for me. Context is a non starter for conservos. Interpretive apparati allow the sheep their place in the field. Structural functionalism and its binary twin of free market ideology, present a functional holism that transcends objective analysis. I thought you had made that clear
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) May 30, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Matt, is this the thread you were looking for this morning?
tom merle June 05, 2012 at 01:36 AM
News Flash: Starbucks buys SF's La Boulange. Maybe this bakery/café will be coming to the corner. But this won't satisfy the localists of course.


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