By Jim Stanford on June 10, 2013
Back in April, a News&Guide report that Starbucks planned to open a store on the Town Square brewed up a venti-sized dose of dismay.
Java junkies were jittery at the prospect of the megachain draining business from local coffee shops. Critics appealed to the town government for help. One friend wrote on Facebook:
“WTF? Jackson Town Planners?!?! Seriously. Walgreens and now Starbucks. B/c we really need those chains right… They just fit right in with the LOCAL folks who already serve up great coffee.”
The town government has little regulatory authority to keep out chain businesses, other than issuing building permits to ensure codes are met. In this case, the building inspector rejected Starbucks’ initial application because the store would have exceeded capacity (49 people) and had entrance problems (being inside another business, Lee’s Tees). As of last week, the company had resolved those issues, and the town was set to issue a building permit.
In the meantime, JH Roasters has reopened in the Pink Garter Plaza, adjacent to Pinky G’s Pizzeria. And Persephone Bakery is about to open its cafe next door to Cafe Genevieve on Broadway. Starbucks’ delay means it’s unlikely to begin construction until the fall, allowing these locally owned businesses more time to establish themselves.
Why the panic about Starbucks? As with the Walgreens debate last year, I can think of a long list of chain stores that have come and gone on the Town Square or Broadway: Polo, Benetton, J. Crew, The Gap, KFC, Arby’s.
No matter what Starbucks does inside Lee’s Tees, it will never have the deck at Shades. The food always will be better at Genevieve and Betty Rock. Pearl Street Bagels still probably will pour a better cup. The Bunnery already serves Starbucks coffee. If you don’t want Starbucks on the Square, don’t buy there.
Regarding the larger question of town regulation, there are creative ways to keep out chains. The French Quarter of New Orleans, for instance, has no fast food eateries, thanks to strict and cleverly crafted design guidelines. And the town of Carmel, Calif., reportedly has cumbersome restrictions to preserve community character. But this type of regulation generally is seen as heavy handed in Wyoming and contrary to the state’s spirit — unless citizens demand it.
(PSB photo via Painted Buffalo)