SAN DIEGO,CA. Columnist D.A. Kolodenko – of the feisty weekly CityBeat – has come out in the latest issue in an open letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz pushing him to add the Ocean Beach Starbucks to the list of 600 locations that the Seattle corporation plans to close. The brewing company that has made its name synonymous with ubiquity has recently announced plans to close that many storefronts in its restructuring efforts. Those locations that are ‘under-performing’ are due to be shut down.
Yet Kolodenko, who apparently lives in OB, has been a loyalist in the community’s efforts to first prevent the brewer from opening at all, and then when it did open on Newport Avenue, to be part of the boycott of Starbucks. The columnist takes the CEO at his word when the corporate head declared years ago that Starbucks would not open in neighborhoods that didn’t want it. He makes his point in writing this public letter:
Some of us would like it if our little corner of the world could remain unbranded. Should there be a Starbucks at the Great Pyramid of Giza? On the Galapagos Islands?
Our little main street of small, locally owned businesses may not seem like much to you, but to OBceans the albeit funky character of this place is as precious as a natural or architectural wonder: It doesn’t matter that you try to blend in by creating a chameleon store facade or encourage your employees to join a beach cleanup. The point is that we need some cities, villages and neighborhoods that are not just a little bit different, but utterly different. Humans benefit most from real diversity, not manufactured diversity
Right on, Kolodenko. Go check out his “Dear Starbucks” letter here.
The Starbucks on Newport Avenue opened on September 11, 2001 – yup, that’s right – on 9-11. The storefront opened in the ancient Bank of America building that had been boarded up for a long time. And it opened despite a community campaign against it. The campaign, led by the Save OB Coalition and OB Grassroots Organization, had been an energized neighborhood effort, with mass demonstrations, petitions, calls to the landlord of the building. But to no avail.
Part of why OBceans didn’t want it was because of the high rent the corporation could afford, undermining cheaper rents on OB’s main business street, cheaper rents that vanished when the more greedy Newport landowners realized that they too could have a corporate franchise on their property, paying them big bucks. All kinds of locally owned stores and businesses did close. One, a pet-supply store, in OB for 30 years, locally-owned, on the corner of Newport and Cable, had their rent raised 3000 per cent – that’s right, 3000%. Of course they had to close. This was a pattern we tried to prevent by preventing Starbucks from coming in.
After it opened, community activists attempted to keep a boycott of the store going, but over time, too many naive tourists gunning for a corporate symbol they knew, too many uncaring Point Lomans, and too many locals kept the brew going. We had heard that initially the OB storefront was not doing well financially. But it’s still there, after nearly 7 years.
But Kolodenko is right. Let’s join the clamor and have it join the 600. ‘Lattes to the right of them, lattes to the left of them, mocha chip and chai, all into the valley of white death, rode the 600,’ (with a tip of the hat to Alfred Lord Tennyson).