Ok so a long while a go a big crowd of stuffy exec types swarmed into Victrola up on 15th Ave (the original Victrola location). As they sipped their cappuccinos and let their doppios languish for what seemed like an eternity, our fearless manager Tonya waltzed up to the group of ten and 'cordially' asked them what the hell they were doing in our store. We applauded her efforts and it turned out they were on a "research" mission for Starbucks.

We rolled our eyes when they left and thought that was that...end of story...until today.

Starbucks closed down a location on our lovely 15 Avenue a little while ago that was very near the original Victrola Coffee and Art. So that was good news until we soon learned it was just a plot to re-open with a new look.

'So what!' Well here's what: I learned a few moments ago that they're reopening the store under the name: "15th Street Coffee and Tea" ...no Starbucks in the title??

Could they even go so far as to private label the coffee?? Is this a new onslaught on the independents?

Honestly I'm really not that worried, our customers know better. A blender is a blender. Crappy coffee even shoved through a clover is still crappy coffee, but this move makes me wonder how far they're willing to go.

I've been to their 'concept' store by Pike Place Market, nice woodwork, dark earth tones, steal molding etc, but still the blenders and still the same sludge drooling from those plastic, self-cleaning spouts. Same old stuff repackaged.

So this twist does make me wonder what else they've got in store for re-inventing themselves. They open in a week or so, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see what the big green mermaid spews out this time.

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Very well put, Jay.

Jay Caragay said:
After seeing the photos provided, I'm a bit saddened. Not because Starbucks is pursuing this new approach but rather because this 15th Avenue is such a caricature of Third Wave and what we, as a community, are supposedly about.

They've managed to take the best elements that I've seen in 3W shops across America and combine them with the worst elements. All the capital resources available to them and I would have liked to see a bit better in design and approach. After working with environmentally-friendly construction techniques and artifact salvage these past two years, much of the materials incorporated in the finished product are not cheap but are presented in a way that really doesn't better the design of the 3W flophouses that look that way because of poor design approach and limited capital.

As I reviewed the images, thoughts of "Four Barrel", "Zoka" and others popped into mind. In the end, it's a cool idea whose execution and release doesn't really challenge anything that we are doing on the home front.

Sadly, it's a celebration of everything I see wrong with 3W/Barista culture.
Well I stopped in the store yesterday with my wife and kids. Interesting store. They are trying all the good things in coffee with the new (old) espresso machines, clover and pour over station. I thought that it was interesting that they don't have any pricing on the menu boards. Instead they have a book at the counter with full descriptions of all the coffee and tea and a price in there. Serving everything in house in ceramic cups as well.

On a side note - Mark - I had a chance to stop in and have a great capp at your location!
I found this article and did a search for it in the forums and I was glad to see discussion started about it.
Here's a small update that I don't think I saw in previous posts. Entrepreneur Mag did an article on this.

http://www.entrepreneur.com/magazine/entrepreneur/2009/november/203...
OMG! Falling apart due to the economy or their overpriced "crappy" coffee?????
They're also trying to establish monopolies on certain coffees, hoping to strangle supply to smaller shops. The Blue Batak move could be a portent of things to come.
http://blogs.reuters.com/small-business/2009/11/27/the-hidden-meani... Interesting update- last paragraph- the rebranded store 15th Ave store is doing 1/3rd of what the old Starbucks in same location did. Here is a link from the article to the website> http://www.streetlevelcoffee.com/
Just a thought, but when reading the bottom of the article, I see that the summary opinion is more a guess than a well derived, quantitative sum of more scientific notation. That comment was, "Perhaps consumer really do want something more than branded artifice; they want something genuinely local." My take was, most consumers are given more credit than they deserve. I'm thinking allot of passer-bys perceive the rebranded location as another neighborhood coffee shop, and since they are not familiar with it, go to a more known entity. A more scientific setup would be to have a Starbucks very close by, and monitor the foot traffic when the consumers have three choices; independent retailer of long standing in the neighborhood, rebranded new looking coffee shop, and a well known chain store. I didn't read, or I missed, any direct polling of those consumers?

Alun Evans said:
http://blogs.reuters.com/small-business/2009/11/27/the-hidden-meani... Interesting update- last paragraph- the rebranded store 15th Ave store is doing 1/3rd of what the old Starbucks in same location did. Here is a link from the article to the website> http://www.streetlevelcoffee.com/
I thought *$'s already tried buying up coffee farms to monopolize on crops and cut out the smaller buyers? Are they back at it with a new twist?


Jeremy Conley said:
They're also trying to establish monopolies on certain coffees, hoping to strangle supply to smaller shops. The Blue Batak move could be a portent of things to come.
It's true sometimes consumers get more credit than they deserve, Al, but I don't think in this case. At least here in MI, there seems to be a growing interest in the supporting local business in order to try to preserve our towns. Signs for the 3/50 Project are everywhere... http://www.the350project.net/home.html Maybe people are starting to get fed up with the deceit and abuses of big corporate America.
Teresa, coming from a formal marketing and sales background, I'm in "respectful suspect" of opinions based on observation only. And understand, there are times when the market shifts are so obvious, or the local buying habits so "in our face", that we really don't need a Phd to tell us what we know. But in this case, and with so much at stake economically, I would be prefer to hear from the consumers as directly as possible. The article, like the coffee community, offers opinion and hope, not hard numbers. One of the toughest marketing talents to develope is that of seperating quantitative information from emotionally based opinion. I'm allowing that "some awakened coffee consumers" may sense the difference between quality product and brewing methods, but my "gut feeling" and conversation with consumers at various retail venues tells me that the greater population isn't that saavy, or are not looking for what the specialty coffee community identifies as a "better product or environment." I would have liked to read the article with more objective information peppered into it.

And regarding the 3/50 project, yes, that's encouraging and similar movements are occuring in other cities. I'm focusing here on specialty coffee, and even coffee served in non-coffee shop venues. It's the awareness and coffee education level of the consumer in which I'm interested. And ultimately, because I want to see how that effects the final point of interest; their coffee related buying habits.

teresa said:
It's true sometimes consumers get more credit than they deserve, Al, but I don't think in this case. At least here in MI, there seems to be a growing interest in the supporting local business in order to try to preserve our towns. Signs for the 3/50 Project are everywhere... http://www.the350project.net/home.html Maybe people are starting to get fed up with the deceit and abuses of big corporate America.
Very thoughtful comments, Al. Perhaps the socially/environmentally/locally-aware microcosm of small cities like Ann Arbor are not a great barometer for what's going on in the mind of the average consumer as to their current buying preferences and motivations to seek out specialty coffee.

I truly want to believe quality matters over a quick fix or whatever happens to be the cheaper option (emotional, yes!), but as you rightly point out, we can only guess why 15th is only doing "a third of the business" as the Sbux that used to be there. My own Marketing background tells me it could be for all kinds of reasons... People are creatures of habit; perhaps in time sales will improve (?) Maybe they don't like the new decor or feel of the place as much as the previous store (?) Could be that changing attitudes toward Sbux are hurting sales at 15th as well, implying a brand revolt (people must make the "Inspired by Starbucks" connection, right? The beans they sell are the same.) Or, judging by a couple of the responses to that blog, some folks still (and rightly so at times) equate independents with inconsistent quality (and dirty bathrooms!).

It'll be interesting to see if the same thing happens at Roy St.

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