not the buzz Starbucks hoped to generate

By Jim Stanford on June 10, 2013

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Coming soon to Square.

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.

Most locals still will get coffee at their favorite haunts.

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)

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Posted under Business, Food, Politics, Town Government

16 Comments so far

  1. John June 10, 2013 12:33 pm

    I think the comparison to New Orleans is apt. The last I checked, Louisiana was about as red and free as Wyoming, but if you look carefully at either state map, you’ll see a deep blue island where the tourists go, with smart regulations to maintain the special character that attracts the tourists. It’s not like Jackson Hole isn’t familiar with regulation– I don’t even want to think about what GTNP and Yellowstone would look like if some smart people hadn’t recognized a long time ago the place deserves special treatment.

    In another sense, we’re just doing the corporations a favor. No one’s going buy their coffee and they’ll close down eventually, so we’re really just saving them the trouble. That’s pro-corporation regulation!

  2. John June 10, 2013 1:00 pm
  3. D June 10, 2013 1:01 pm

    It’s called capitalism. If the local shops are so much better they will survive/thrive. It’s up to the community… you have the power to stop it with your dollars. You don’t need Government to do it for you.

  4. Tim June 10, 2013 4:11 pm

    And let’s not overlook last year’s addition to the downtown coffee scene, Cowboy Coffee, in Gaslight Alley. As an avowed coffee junkie, I believe the local coffee shops will give Starbucks a run for the money. Why did the Starbucks in the Pines close down anyway, only to reopen as Elevated Grounds, which appears to be doing a great business?

  5. Sally June 10, 2013 5:34 pm

    “Louisiana was about as red and free as Wyoming,”

    Totally incorrect. The Big L is hardly Wyoming-conservative. Putting aside faith-based issues it looks more liberal than the Northeast. It’s also as corrupt and mismanaged as any state can be. New Orleans might be comparable to Jackson, but the Big L would never come close to resembling the Big W.

    The ‘Shirt Off My Back’ store is a chain store and it’s never going to leave Town Square. The ‘Jackson Whole Grocer’ is pairing up with the chain ‘Market of Choice’.

    We have franchise and chain stores in every corner of Teton County. National ‘chains’ are managing hotels in the National Park. Hardware stores are tied to chains. ‘Local stores sell products from national and international ‘chains’ like bikes, skis, clothing, food, sun glasses, and everything else you use on a daily basis.

    Nothing wrong with chains. I bet they pay better and have better benefits. The Four Seasons hotel pays better than any ‘local’ hotel.

    If they hire locally, I’ll shop there. If they bring in el-cheapo visa workers, no go.

  6. danno June 10, 2013 6:30 pm

    Starbucks? Chain stores? the horror!

  7. John June 10, 2013 7:36 pm

    I hear what you’re saying, June. I’m not 100% against chains, period. But I don’t think the conversation should just automatically end at ‘Capitalism’, case-closed. New Orleans doesn’t specifically rule out chains, as you point out this is impractical and in many cases not good for anyone. However, the City of New Orleans does control business locations and buildings’ architecture carefully to preserve the unique character of the city. Something’s working with the strategy because NO is a world-wide tourist destination in the middle of an 8-foot-under-sea level hot swamp. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Houston is still waiting for their first tourist.

    If Red Lobster decided to open a marquee location on Cache where that big hole is, I’d be against it, because I think it would hurt the local businesses around it and would be an eyesore every month it manages to stay open. If Starbucks wants to have a go at opening a store in the t-shirt shop, meh, okay.

    Maybe I’m just remembering Starbuck’s very different strategy in New Orleans in the late nineties– they opened a Starbucks right next door to every single locally owned coffee shop in the city. So yeah, I think that’s a little predatory on small business owners and I’d like to make it harder for them, call me a socialist.

  8. Shirt Less June 10, 2013 8:02 pm

    Stowe, Vermont, does an excellent job at preventing chain stores from marring the character of its town. For instance, Stowe let McDonalds move in, but made it live inside a building that looks like an 1800s New England farm house. Most towns in Vermont operate this way, as Vermonters know tourists aren’t coming for McDonalds, but for authentic Vermont charm. They know if they lose that, they lose the tourist dollars. Even the gas stations are full of Vermont-made products. At any given pit stop, it’s hard to buy anything that isn’t from Vermont. With a little organization Wyoming towns could do the same.

    … I always loved this story about the town of Saranac, NY, keeping Walmart out by creating its own department store. Powell, Wyoming did the same thing: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/business/a-town-in-new-york-creates-its-own-department-store.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  9. JP June 10, 2013 10:34 pm

    Jackson lost the unique “character of its town” a long time ago. Almost everything is designed to sell stuff to tourists – to create a nice fake western downtown with regulations to back it up. Smart travelers know the difference. We certainly have a vibe but it doesn’t stand out from any other major gateway community or resort town.

    If you want a real Wyoming experience inside a town’s limits then visit the small coal mining town of Kemmerer or drop by Green River’s strip bar when it’s packed with extractive industry workers.

    In those towns. you won’t find a Ripley’s, a t-shirt shop, or stores TRYING to sell you Wyoming products BECAUSE you’re in Wyoming and clearly YOU’RE A TOURIST.

    Jackson feels like a tourist trap. It is one, of course. These other places do not. That’s the ‘character’ that we lost. The realness is gone. Unless you’re looking for a REAL tourist trap. Sure, we have bars that are full of locals but outside of the Stagecoach (which is outside of TOJ), most lack a natural Wyomingness or a naturalness to a tradition like the Coach.

    We won’t be the next SXSW or X-Games host but we almost get there as a host of Arts events. That passion almost feels real but it quickly evaporates every time I see the money grab just to walk around the Fall Arts Festival – or just look at the poor quality of the ‘art’.

    The Jackson Hole Gallery Association’s Art Walk feels a little more authentic and welcoming to locals and visitors.

    What are the most visible experiences that the TOJ offer up? Stagecoach rides and the Shootout. I can get that at Disneyland along with Starbucks.

  10. Skip June 10, 2013 10:43 pm

    If the local shops didn’t want corporate coffee competition, they shoulda rented the space from Lee, a local business person. The opportunity was there to them first–before being shopped to “evil” Starbucks. No one took it. Lee has the right to make a dime.

    If Eddie Bauer wasn’t in town, I’d be buying work clothes in IF or SLC. The options here are slim to none, unless you wear Carhartts to work (no offense–I have an office job).

  11. My version of doing business locally June 11, 2013 5:44 am

    Now, as for shopping locally and supporting small local business owners, it’s time to get back on my Centurylink internet connection on my Toshiba laptop running Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to finish my Amazon order for my Canon camera and have it shipped via FedEX after paying with my Visa card issued by my local bank: Bank of Jackson Hole.

    Tourists got a taste of the real Jackson yesterday around lunchtime. Hope Fire/EMS didn’t get a call and have to run through traffic on Broadway.

  12. Charlie June 11, 2013 6:39 am

    From Today’s Wall Street Journal:

    “Quitting Caffeine Is Now Listed as a Mental-Health Disorder”

    Personally, I don’t want more people on Town Square. Perhaps Starbucks will drive them away.

  13. D June 11, 2013 8:52 am

    GR strip club please….. RS will always hold the title of best of the best in Wyoming for that category.

  14. joe June 11, 2013 9:13 am

    its all wyoming’s fault? ya got to luv it.

  15. KB June 11, 2013 3:59 pm

    Who can afford gol dang store-bought coffee? In Wilson we grind our own with a sock and a hammer.

  16. AJ June 12, 2013 7:08 am

    Since we don’t have a single chain or franchise here yet, let’s collectively find a way to block Starbucks, that’ll send a message to other brands who are even THINKING about infiltrating these hallowed grounds.

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