Saturday, December 9, 2006

The new Starbucks in Manitowoc

Well, over the past several weeks I've been asked by folks coming into the Stumpjack what I think about the new Starbucks opening up in Manitowoc and how it might affect our business here. I understand that they opened for business yesterday and today there is a front page article on the new business in the local newspaper, so it seems an opportune time for me to share my thoughts.

I think that it is a good thing that Starbucks is opening a store here in our area. Almost any new business should be welcome (I do have reservations about certain businesses, but that's not relative to this post), encouraged and supported. A new business means new jobs and more choices for folks who live and shop here, and those are very good things. Also, Starbucks, even with all of its anti-Third Wave associations, will surely increase the coffee consciousness of the community (not that awareness of "Third Wave" philosophy or terminology is even on most people's radar in this part of the country anyway).

From a purely personal business stance I also believe that the addition of Starbucks to the community is a good thing for my business. The paper's brief interviews with the two coffee shops in Manitowoc indicate a concern that Starbucks will have a negative impact on their businesses. In my opinion, that's misguided thinking. I would love a Starbucks to be on the same block as the Stumpjack Coffee Company; right next door would be even better! Their presence presents a great opportunity for increasing our business and the public's coffee knowledge (and the more knowledgable people become about coffee the greater our business should be, as people become more knowledgable they will also become more concerned about the quality of the coffee they drink and the experience they desire).

While Starbucks may perhaps beat us at speed (in getting the drink to the customer) and familiarity (familiarity of place that equates to comfort...even if someone has never been into a Starbucks we all pretty much know what to expect, just as we know what to expect when we enter any fast food or franchise restaurant), they cannot successfully compete with us on so many more fronts if we do our jobs the way we should. We beat them on quality of service, atmosphere and originality, commitment to our customers and to product excellence, and of course, quality of coffee. This is not to say that Starbucks does not have people on their staff who care about quality service or a quality product, because surely there are dedicated, service and quality minded people who work there. It is to say that the fast food franchise system inevitably leads to a less personalized service experience, and by virtue of their large size (quantity of stores) they cannot, practically or logistically, present as fresh a product as a smaller independent.

For people who enjoy the repetitiously familiar experience (and there is indeed a measure of comfort and reassurance to the repetitiously familiar) Starbucks is a fine choice. But they are at a serious disadvantage with people who desire something more personal, eclectic and quality-driven. I hope they do well here in Manitowoc...well enough to consider a location in Two Rivers even.

No comments: