In most cities, Starbucks is omnipresent. It’s almost impossible to walk more than 1,000 feet in a touristy part of town without bumping into one, and their arrival in a hip or previously blighted neighborhood is one of the surest markers of gentrification there is.
While most of us tolerate their presence, doing little more than rolling our eyes as we continue our walk towards a better coffee shop, it seems that some in Philadelphia feel that enough is enough when it comes to opening yet another new Starbucks. News of a proposed location near Dilworth Park, in the heart of the Center City neighborhood and pretty much adjacent to city hall, hasn’t been met with brotherly love.
With the location recently breaking ground, locals expressed that there’s no real reason to add another Starbucks in the area. “This is not serving us,” an anonymous detractor told CBS Philly. “I just really think it should be a local coffee shop,” Center City resident Julie Platt said. Even Starbucks fans like Richard Hernandez don’t seem to be on board: “Do we need another Starbucks? I like Starbucks too much, I think it’s a little much.”
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From the sound of it, the immediate area is already saturated with coffee shops. There’s an existing coffee shop— which shares its name with the park that this Starbucks would occupy— a mere 500 feet away from the proposed site. It also happens to already serve Starbucks coffee. La Colombe, the third-wave coffee roaster with roots in Philadelphia, already has a location across the street from the future Starbucks.
There are some political reasons why Philadelphians might resent Starbucks’ latest encroachment on their turf. Last April, two black men were arrested simply for sitting in a Philadelphia Starbucks after the manager called the police. The racist incident sparked national outrage, calls for a Starbucks boycott, and the introduction of a racial bias training program. That was followed by a separate incident in which a barista at a Starbucks near the University of Pennsylvania campus was fired for labelling a cup in a way that mocked a customer’s stutter.
Ultimately, the incidents failed to make a dent in the coffee giant’s 2018 revenue. Maybe that’s why the opening of a new location in the heart of downtown Philly has become something of a flashpoint for those who wish to voice their frustration. Barring some sort of widespread opposition movement like the one that chased Amazon out of New York, though, it’s likely that this Starbucks will be serving coffee soon enough.
That doesn’t mean consumers shouldn’t seek out other options, though. Perhaps Platt said it up best with a statement that not only sums up the current situation, but also serves as a useful aphorism for anyone seeking authentic coffee culture in Philadelphia (or beyond): “I think if people really want to get to know Philadelphia, they should not be going to a Starbucks coffee.”
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