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Coffee come lately

Barrista Sabrina Bareggi makes a customer's coffee at Dutch Brothers in Crescent City. (The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson).
Barrista Sabrina Bareggi makes a customer's coffee at Dutch Brothers in Crescent City. (The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson).

By Kelley Atherton

Triplicate staff writer

There's no shortage of drive-through coffee shops in Crescent City.

On U.S. Highway 101 alone, a statement as simple as "let's get some coffee" can lead to, "let's stop there ... or there ... or there."

The decision on where to get a java fix will become even harder when Starbucks Coffee Company opens a coffeehouse and drive-though at 450 Hwy. 101 North. But the city's already-established coffee drive-throughs say they are prepared for the coffee powerhouse.

"Crescent City likes to have new things, but it should have have been a restaurant—any source of food rather than a coffee shop when we already have so many," said Better Bean Espresso Owner Heidi Cross.

Adrienne Anthony, owner of Java Hut, said her business has what it takes to compete.

"I think we have a much larger menu and lower prices than Starbucks," Anthony said. "People looking for the status of the name will go there."

Cross agrees that neither she nor others will be run out of business.

"We have a great location, we've been here almost six years," Cross said. "For the first couple weeks, people will go there."

Java Hut is located almost directly across the highway from where Starbucks is building. Anthony is confident that her customers will continue to patronize her business.

"We'll be able to retain our customer base," she said. "For quality and product, we stand by what we serve."

Jeff Simmons, a district manager for Starbucks, said that the rainy weather has pushed back construction and therefore the opening date. Starbucks should be ready for business by late March or April.

About 20 local people have been hired for the Crescent City store, which will be one of 2,150 new stores for the 2008 fiscal year.

Starbucks will actually be opening 425 fewer stores than last year, and is focusing on the international market with 75 new stores in other countries, the Associated Press reported. And about 100 low-performing Starbucks stores across the country will be closing in 2008.

If the folks at Starbucks corporate headquarters are concerned about the competition they'll face in Crescent City, they aren't saying so. The Triplicate received a "no comment" from Seattle on Wednesday.

"Bring it on"

A new business tends to generate a buzz in a small town, and no one denies Starbucks will initially have an impact on other coffee establishments.

"We may have a little bit of a hiccup," Anthony admitted. "We had the same thing with Dutch Brothers."

Anthony plans to offer an incentive to retain customers. And her coffee shop will also get a facelift with some remodeling inside and out, repainting and new awnings, she said.

Cross agreed that Starbucks will attract curious coffee drinkers, but said that ultimately customers will buy coffee at their favorite spot.

"I'm not worried one bit—bring it on," Cross said.

She too plans on having some sort of special offers when Starbucks opens. However, she is more concerned about the tourist season.

Out-of-towners might flock to Starbucks since they're familiar with its products. However, the loyal customer base will still be there, Cross said.

"The same tourists that come back every year still come back to Better Bean," Cross said.

Traffic-flow strategy

Cross pointed out that the Better Bean is the first coffee drive-through in Crescent City traveling north on Hwy. 101. She, herself, makes it a point to stop at the first locally owned coffee joint when out of town.

"I hit the first one I see," Cross explained. "I'd rather go to a local place than Starbucks."

Anthony echoes that sentiment, and notes that independently owned coffee spots offer more personal touches.

Barristas frequently notice customers' cars before they pull up and prepare their favorite drinks in advance, Anthony said.

"That family feel rubs off," she said. "It's part of maintaining a good business."

There was some concern when Dutch Brothers opened, both Cross and Anthony said, but now the regional franchise is in the same spot as the other local coffee shops.

"We're not worried about Starbucks," said Dutch Brothers store manager Jessica Randolph. "Our philosophy is good coffee, good customer service, fast."

Randolph said that while Dutch Brothers is a chain with 115 stores, it still offers a local feel.

"All the stands are locally owned and operated," she said. "We have a smaller, hands-on feel, we're not some huge corporation."

For all the bravado, local coffee shop owners would just as soon Crescent City wasn't becoming another outpost in the Starbucks empire.

"Honestly it's unfair to the local coffee shops to bring in a large franchise when people are trying to support themselves," Cross said.

"It's unnecessary for them to come in here and try and shut us down," said Kindra Kirkpatrick, who has been working at Java Hut for three years. "We're too small of a town for another coffee shop."

Kirkpatrick is not worried about Java Hut going out of business, because she said its reputation spreads every tourist season.

"We've been in tourist magazines," Kirkpatrick said. "It spreads by word of mouth. People from different cities drive through all the time. We've had people from Maine come by and say our friends told us about you."

The store has a hold on its share of locals, she said, who frequently question the barristas about the soon-to-open Starbucks store.

Reach Kelley Atherton at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

 
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