I went to college in a notoriously liberal beach town, with a notoriously liberal downtown street called Pacific Avenue. Full of indie music shops, smoke shops, bars, and trinket houses, it was Santa Cruz's place to be seen. Now, I know all of you don't read Napa Patch to hear about other towns; but trust me, I do have a point here.
Pacific Avenue, while proud to be flourishing with local businesses, also had its share of corporate influence: A Gap, Baby Gap, Borders, and all sat dispersed among Bay Area-based retailers' digs.
This didn't go unnoticed by the average townie. Many people boycotted the large retailers, and opted for the small shops; I, however, always managed to sneak into the Gap when none of my college friends was looking, to buy jeans on the clearance rack. (We all have our vices).
Most locals were OK with the average visitor entering Borders for a good book, or for a wheatgrass-infused smoothie; but when it came down to the and the Santa Cruz Roasting Company, you picked one or the other.
Throughout my four years in Santa Cruz, it was a well-known fact that the Roasting Company’s mochas were unmatched by any coffee shop in the world. But sometimes, the line was long; and I really loved the Peppermint Mochas at Starbucks—their free wi-fi didn’t hurt, either.
I was a jumper between the two coffee houses. Sometimes, I was local. Other times, I was just cold, sleepy, and ready to enter whatever building would get coffee into my system the fastest.
For as much gripe as a local would give you about entering the Starbucks when the Roasting Company’s line was too long, I can guarantee you that in the end, visitor and local alike were happy to have two coffee shops within fifty feet of each other. Neither one ever hurt for business.
Coffee lovers, in the end, just plain love coffee, and they're happy when there are two shops fighting for their affections on a crowded city block.
The great thing about downtown Santa Cruz was and is its abundance of activity and interest. A lot of the reason I spent 40 percent of my college years down there was because those coffee houses—local or conglomerate—gave me a reason to be. They were the perfect place to study, the perfect place to gossip and the perfect way to be downtown and keep your wallet on the full side.
I know I don’t have to make some big sweeping commonality statement, here: You guys are smart. It seems to me that all that’s in the way of making Napa into a true city is a couple more popular corporations, just to give the local shops—and us—a little company.
My loyalty does not lie with a particular brand or person. Plainly, it just lies with coffee. And I will continue to travel this grand valley, drinking at , at the , , , , , , whenever the coffee mood strikes me.
Which will most likely be within the next four hours. I'm pretty sure there are many others like me.