To Starbucks, a Closing; To Newark, a Trauma
The Times article points out that there are two additional Starbucks franchises in the city that aren’t in the airport. Sure: one store is nestled in the series of interconnected tubes that conjoin the Gateway Center buildings — like a giant hamster cage.
The other is on the Rutgers campus, which I’m not entirely sure is a “real” Starbucks, serving their mixed drinks and trained by Starbucks employees. Any number of retail coffee shops “proudly brew Starbucks coffee” without actually being a Starbucks, and by that criteria, you could include the coffee shop in the NJIT student center, as well.
The point isn’t so much a loss of the product as it is a loss of the brand. Corporate sponsorship of a streetscape is, for many people — customers and investors, alike — a kind of shorthand about the quality of retail and safety of that street. That might raise the ire of some, and it makes me a little uneasy being an independent blogger, but it’s true: seeing a company like a Starbucks or a Kinko’s or an Old Navy means those companies did their due diligence to consider actuarial risk and profitability. If they decide a neighborhood is worth investing in, it “legitimizes” that neighborhood.
All of that is to say nothing of the subconscious comfort of seeing a familiar brand in a strange place. When visitors come to the city and find their favorite coffee shop, it makes them feel less unsettled about that place. (Especially if that new place is rumored to have zombies!)
Sure, we get to keep the remaining two or three Starbucks coffee shops for those of us who need a local latte fix, but the city is losing that perception of growth, safety, and familiarity at its most important crossroads.
Or maybe it’s just a coffee shop, and another will take its place, and we’ll forget this whole thing. But you’ll have to excuse me: I’m on my morning commute and I have to pick up my grande iced coffee.
What do you think? Register your opinion in our poll, Should Newark Save Starbucks?
But every store, as it turns out, is not quite the same. When a Starbucks opened on Broad Street here almost eight years ago, it was not seen as a bland new spigot of a corporate coffeepot, but as a gathering place whose very existence would have seemed impossible a decade before, a symbol of a knocked-down city’s attempts to get up.
A few miles away, in New York City, new Starbucks branches were sometimes greeted with yawns, or even annoyance that the national chain was invading neighborhoods. In Newark, Sharpe James, then the mayor, showed up for the opening.
So when Starbucks announced last week that the Broad Street branch would be among the 600 stores that the coffee company is closing around the country, the reaction here was especially emotional, a mixture of anger, disappointment and frustration.
“They’re not going to close the one on Wall Street!” one man exclaimed.