Opinion: Napa Doesn’t Need Another Starbucks

I love the stuff, but does Napa need another Starbucks? No.


I can’t live without it. But I usually just brew it at home.

I do have to admit however, that whenever I need some strong coffee, I go to Starbucks to get my caffeine high.

And now it seems that it will be easier than ever to find a cup of cafécito (as we say in Spanish) with the addition of a new Starbuck’s in town right at the heart of it – First and Main Streets.

Bad idea and this is why.

Downtown Napa is a worldwide tourist attraction, a place where people can visit shops, eat at gourmet restaurants and experience something that they can’t back home. It’s a place that’s defined by mom-and-pop shops, high-end restaurants, wine boutiques, and specialty shops not seen anywhere else in the country.

Do we really want to see a business that can be experienced at any strip mall in the country in an exclusive location such as downtown Napa?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Starbucks. Don’t have anything against them. Don’t really care if they are corporate juggernauts that pretty much define suburban sprawl – the same Starbucks you see in Napa is the same one you see in Petaluma, Sonoma, Healdsburg, Rohnert Park and don’t get me started on American Canyon.

I also have a concern that by having a Starbucks in Napa, other coffee companies centered in downtown will have a hard time competing with the popular brand. I used to take walks from the building with colleagues to grab some coffee over at on First and Main Street.

Now as I return to Napa and work alongside editor Louisa Hufstader, the thought of not having a local coffee shop to enjoy because of the potential drop in business that may be sustained when Starbucks opens up is troubling.

Napa already has six Starbucks in town. It doesn’t need another.

What are your thoughts?  

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George Knopp July 08, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Freedom of choice - if one doesn't want to purchase a certain product/service, then don't patronize that establishment. NV roasting does not have the type of coffee I enjoy, but others are free to go where they choose. As for Starbuck's, some locations are not all that great (Soscol comes to mind...) - so make Your own choices and stop complaining and trying to restrict/control/legislate everyone else. It used to be said it's a Free Country.
Stephanie Raffety July 08, 2012 at 03:01 PM
But you have TWO other dedicated coffee shops just steps away - why add a Starbucks that will take from their business???
Jeffrey Wright July 08, 2012 at 05:56 PM
So you would be OK with a Taco Bell opening up downtown ? It's a free country right ..........
Catherine George July 08, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Well said, Matt and Patty, thank you. And thank you Carlos for the great letter. There are other starbucks around if that's the choice you want to make, and you are of course, free to make it. I find it a bit authoritarian when the chains use their muscle to oust the local mom & pop shops, leaving me with choices between a plethora of bad chains. I'm proud to say that I do all I can to shop local. By doing so, I put my money where my mouth is, and I support my own community. Nothing authoritarian about that, thank you. Tom, we have discussed this before - yes, starbucks can offer a nice experience - they've spent lots of money to try to figure out how to pretend they are sort of like a mom & pop, and how to provide what people want. But, we don't need a starbucks to do this for us. We can have a local shop do all that starbucks does, plus have better coffee, plus be a real, not a fake, part of the community. Anyone remember that joke from the movie "best in show" where that couple talked about how they met - one in a starbucks, and the other in the starbucks across the street? Christopher Guest gets it!
Kristy Page July 08, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Like I said, feel free to move than
Ross Workman July 08, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Hey, folks! Nobody is being ousted from downtown Napa. If the local mom & pop shop satisfies its customers, it will stay in business. If Starbucks attracts those customers across the street, mom & pop will have to figure out how to run their business better. The competition will make their operation better, if they can do a better job. If they can't, then they may have to find something else to do. The playing field is level. Competition will make them better at what they do, if they are up to it. If they aren't good enough to keep their customers and stay in business, then it is their failure that will be to blame. Sounds fair to me. And I don't even drink coffee or cafecito. But I like a fair fight. Competition improves the breed.
Rob Sherman July 08, 2012 at 10:20 PM
I think that it's sad that the real estate market has priced out any type of business other than Starbucks, which is why Napa shops are so vacant. Discussing coffee is beside the point.
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau July 09, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Actually, Navi, I usually just say "small, medium, or large" because I don't speak Italian and I tend to get confused with "grande, venti, and trenta". If I was in Italy I would respect the Italians and try to use as much as their beautiful language as I could, learning more words during the duration of my visit. By no means would I expect the Italians to learn English or post signs in many languages for my convenience. That's part of the charm of being in another country and experiencing their culture and languages: learning new things.
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau July 09, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Cole, you missed my point: Was in necessary for Carlos to explain that "cafecito" was Spanish? Really? He could have just put a period after the word. Also, let me point out that Carlos said " as WE say in Spanish". Let's focus on that, since you brought up ethnocentric/xenophobic attitudes. What did Carlos mean by that? Could be interpreted that he is judging other cultures against his own Latino heritage. Could be that he feels English speaking people are not intelligent enough to figure out that 'cafecito' is Spanish. Could be just innocent colorful writing. According to your attitude, Carlos should have said "...cafecito (such as in Spanish)". Go learn the "Pledge Of Allegiance" in other languages, Cole, lest you be accused of being xenophobic/ethnocentric.
Carlos Villatoro July 09, 2012 at 04:19 AM
Dudes, chill out. I was totally being playful. But Steve and Kristy are so right and I have seen the error in my ways! Steve, I think a letter is in order. A totally 'Unfiltered' letter to the people at Starbucks. I feel that WE (you and I, and everyone in Napa, the world, Hawaii, and my favorite place -- the taco truck just north of the Cinedome) are obligated to demand that Starbucks immediately stop using venti and grande as serving 'sizes' because this nation was founded with Napa English. Furthermore WE should demand that they decode the meaning of the following words: machiatto, frapuccino, café latte, caffé Americano, caffé mocha, express con panna, cinnamon dolce latte (and my personal favorite) skinny caramel machiatto. The letter should tell them to STOP using these words as menu options. WE should remind them that our forefathers did not spill blood so that they could hear us say these words and laugh at us! Kristy, Unfiltered One..... are you with me?
Catherine George July 09, 2012 at 04:33 AM
Now that all of Altamura's properties have sold to a new developer, everyone is understandably chomping at the bit, because those properties were empty for so long. My fear is that we see downtown turn into generic chain store land, because that's what pays the highest rents. We debate back and forth, and there are lots of great ideas and viewpoints on these boards. We all know that a developer does not do what they do out of altruism, they do what they do to make a profit. And we all need to make a living - there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to make some money, of course. But what seems to get lost in the shuffle is the local people who live here. Where, when, and how do we have a voice, how do we have any say in what happens in our own town? We live here. This is our town. In St. Helena there is an ordinance that says that a certain percentage of businesses must serve the local population. Given that we debate about this issue all the time - the tourist dollars vs. the locals needs - doesn't it seem reasonable that we do something to ensure some sort of a balance? What do you think? Would love to hear your ideas!
Kristy Page July 09, 2012 at 04:47 AM
lol this nation was founded by Napa english? please, define napa english, I think you may be on to something here.
Kristy Page July 09, 2012 at 04:49 AM
coffee, it's serious business in Napa
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau July 09, 2012 at 05:29 AM
Carlos, dude, what the heck is an "express con panna"? That literally means "Gimmee the whipped cream NOW!!!" I'd only use that Italian phrase to order coffee after I'd had way too many espresso con pannas. Like, you know, seven in one sitting. And your favorite place is that taco truck north of Cinedome? They don't even have pupusas! That truck 'Tacos Pupusas y Mas' that used to park on Soscol across from the Dodge dealer? Now, I could get behind THAT being a favorite place. Pupusas rock, but nothing comes close to the ones I get in Honduras with coleslaw, salsa, and a big dollop of cream. Because I respect the wonderful culture of Honduras and El Savador, I order them "Dos pupusas, frijoles y queso con curtido de repollo y salsa roja. Mucho mantequilla blanca, por favor." The Honduran people LOVE IT when I show appreciation by communicating my order in their native tongue. But when I'm home in Napa it's "Gimme two tacos, lotsa cheese. Throw some hot sauce on there. Thanks, Amigo! Keep the change." Hey, a letter demanding Starbucks list menu items in dumb old English, I'm down with that. My girlfriend orders all that fru-fru stuff and always asks "You want one too?" I just roll my eyes and say "Gimmee a large coffee with a couple shots and some milk". Starbucks would probably sell a lot more of those Italiano thingies if dumb guys like me knew what they were, because they look delicious. So, yeah, type something up and I'll scratch my name on the bottom with Kristy.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) July 09, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Hi Henry, please cast your vote for Patrina here: http://patch.com/A-vLDp so we don't miss it in the final tally! Thanks.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) July 09, 2012 at 10:16 PM
I remember a New Yorker cartoon with the caption, "Are we in this Starbucks, or the one across the street"? LOL, but I am told there is some actual research showing that consumers don't like to cross the street to get their coffee. Makes sense, I guess.
Catherine George July 10, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Sometimes I need coffee just so that I can make my coffee in the morning...
Alex Shantz July 10, 2012 at 12:50 AM
A Starbucks in Downtown Napa is a terrible idea. As Carlos stated in his letter why would we want to see their corporate logo undermine the unique qualities of Downtown Napa? More importantly, its been proven that corporate chains, such as Starbucks, have detrimental impacts on the local economy by removing profit from the community into their corporate coffers instead of recruiting it within the local economy. Conversely, local businesses recirculate money within the community creating what economists call the multiplier effect. The pro-corporate chain crowd doesn't even try to dispute this. Why aren't we implementing policies to maximize the multiplier effect? Why is are we allowing our Downtown to be sold to the highest bidder? Where aren't we, as members of the community, being listened to?
Alex Shantz July 10, 2012 at 12:55 AM
One of the most racist things I have read all day.
Cole Armstrong July 10, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Your argument is completely moot. It also shows me that you didn't understand three things: context, tone, and the definition in context of xenophobia and ethnocentrism. "We" is Carlos and his culture. Which is appropriate use of context and tone. Changing it to "such as" would seem odd as using that would not indicate a personal connection to the word "cafecito", and he may as well have written something in German. "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." -Francis Bellamy (The original pledge written in 1892.) Note: WTF does this have to do with anything you are speaking of? ONE NATION (Includes all cultures of different tongues within the nation), with LIBERTY (the freedom to speak such a language). So basically, you should read the pledge yourself and fully understand that it does not indicate that white people who speak English are the only people allowed to be here and write articles. Your attitude is the one that needs adjustment. But hey, you have the right and liberty to speak your mind and I bet there are a ton of Spanish speakers that would put their life on the line so you can be ignorant to the facts all you want.
Cole Armstrong July 10, 2012 at 03:03 AM
^ Exactly.
tom merle July 10, 2012 at 06:01 AM
The ownership is unimportant to me, local or global. I just like coffeehouses for the reasons mentioned.
tom merle July 10, 2012 at 06:04 AM
This is exactly what they found in Carmel. The local establishments slacked off without Starbucks.
tom merle July 10, 2012 at 06:14 AM
In Sonoma, the localists have done more than issue manifestos and lamentations. They are showing initiative and taking action.http://sonomacounty.golocal.coop/ / Napa, unlike Santa Rosa, isn't large enough, apparently, to get a grass roots effort going to go beyond righteous declarations. Of course, after Starbucks opens, it can always be "occupied".
tom merle July 10, 2012 at 06:27 AM
The Carmel experience is instructive. Without a Peets or Starbucks (to kick around), the local establishments slacked off.http://theshot.coffeeratings.com/2007/02/carmel-espresso/
Kristy Page July 10, 2012 at 01:24 PM
That's the problem with people, any little thing said about another race you call out racist! I didn't call anyone names or anything just simply english is the main language here, americas founding ancestors had to learn english if people don't like that today they can move to somewhere that speaks the language they do. Fine let's just be fair than, there's chinese people who live here too lets start putting chinese translations on all our signs and make it apart of every day language, lets just speak every single language there is here.
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau July 10, 2012 at 07:48 PM
That's the best you got, Cole, to Google the original Pledge and call me ignorant? Carlos is an excellent writer, including a perspective from a beautiful and colorful Latino culture. I was being snarky and sarcastic about his "we", because that's what I do to engage a writer whom I enjoy. Otherwise, I would have ignored it. I could care less what you think about me because it's none of my business. So save it for someone who gives a crap. I have no fear or dislike of any specific race or culture, I determine my like or dislike of someone by behavior alone, regardless of origin or heritage. Trust me when I tell you that I've lived in environments where being xenophobic or ethnocentric will get you beaten or killed, I understand their definitions and contexts thoroughly. You, on the other hand, obviously attack anyone who threatens your perception of society. I hope that serves you well, as it is your prerogative.
Catherine George July 10, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Tom - as a matter of fact, the Sonoma organization that you've posted the link to is exactly what we have been talking about, so it sounds like we are actually of like minds on this. Thanks for the link. We're building our own version of that right here in Napa. We've actually been active and will continue to be. So, if you would like to, you can keep issuing your own lamentations and such, while we get things done! Or, you can join us, and do stuff! That's always an option.
Catherine George July 10, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Our country was founded by immigrants. Everyone here is an immigrant. The only exceptions are Native Americans. Our country is really unique in this way, and we have the unique privilege and opportunity to embrace and learn from so many different people who have come here from elsewhere. Respect others, their culture, their language, their art, way of being, etc. This is so basic, I honestly don't understand why you don't seem to understand it. If you have a problem with our country of immigrants, you are free to move to a place that is homogenous. I wound normally never say such a thing to anyone, but I am doing so here because I'm at a loss as to how to get you to understand just how obnoxious and ignorant that statement is. Perhaps you might like to read this; it is a wonderful thought exercise that is usually given in Anthropology 101: https://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/miner.html?pagewanted=al
Matt Grantham July 13, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Tom - Im really not understanding. Do you approve of what Sonoma has done? Or is it that you simply want to use them as an example to criticize us in some manner? We have heard before that we cannot have support local policies because that only happens in small towns like Fairfax and Sonoma and now we here from you that instead we are not big enough. As to Carmel, I do no know the facts, but here is my two cents. Most people want to be good at what they do and do not need the right wing favorite of fear as a motivation to make a good product. competition, from my perspective, is more a process of learning from others and expanding your insights on how such new ideas effect your business. Regardless, competition, if you like, does not require formula business. There is no reason why a well informed local public would not notice if their coffee establishment was substandard and that someone in that town would move to open a competing establishment. However maybe everyone in Carmel was simply to rich to take the time to accomplish such a task. Learning or even paying to learn new business approaches from those outside of Napa does not require that we let them move in


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