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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As is often said, "If you're gonna' do something...do it the best you can." That's not a bad approach, and it reflects my opinion of how to best run a small business, or any business for that matter. My interest in specialty coffee has been the unique perceiption of the US coffee consumer. I'm sure there have been some focused specialty coffee shop surveys asking for a ranking and rating of "the coffee", "the customer service level", and the "retail environment."

Yesterday, I stopped for a traditional cappuccino at La Mill Cafe in the Silverlake District of Los Angeles. It's an upscale coffee shop with a small kitchen menu. I wondered what percentage of their customers "appreciated" the quality of coffee they were being served, and whether they were impressed by the "3" Clover machines at the counter? Whether they were, or were not, would not be an excuse to eliminate the machines, or trade in the well maintained LM they use for a super-auto. But it begs, again, the question of what really drives the consumer's store preference and their purchases.

I'm hoping to return to the Seattle area soon on business, and am very interested in visiting the shops on 15th. After hearing about all of this via media, it should be interesting to see it up close. Overall, I still feel that the independent stores should keep a sharp focus on their business plan, and not be distracted by the competition. As you commented, and I agree, quality matters regardless. If the ultimate goal is to "give the customer what they want...", then raising gross sales should be possible for any of the shops in that area. And I, as you also questioned, would like to know what caused the drop in the store sales at the rebranded location?

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