10th Anniversary of the anti-Starbucks campaign in Ocean Beach

by on June 10, 2011 · 29 comments

in History, Ocean Beach, Popular

Part 1

Often, when one walks by the Starbucks in OB at the corner of Newport and Bacon, there doesn’t seem to be that many customers inside. Unless it’s a weekend or a crowded holiday.  There’s many more people sipping java and staring at their laptops down around the corner at Newbreak on Abbott.

Homeless people and petition hawkers still congregate in front, though, so the corner itself seems busy. People stand in line to get the ATM next door, but they don’t go into the controversial coffeehouse.  Locals walk by, ignoring it.  Sure, tourists go in, so do college students from Nazarene.  But to this day, there is a stigma – although slight – attached to any “conscious” OBcian who enters the glass doors and purchases something off the menu inside.  Such is Starbucks in today’s OB.

It’s amazing to think about how time flies by.  It’s been ten years since part of Ocean Beach rose up to oppose the planned opening of the Seattle-based corporate giant in the village. Numerous, well-attended rallies were held, a town hall meeting jammed the Rec Center, leaflets and fliers abounded, especially on Farmers’ Market days.  A concerted campaign by OBcians to block the store’s opening by public pressure was initiated ten years ago this Spring.

And whatever side you stood on back then, at least you knew about it. It was one of most publicized political campaigns in recent Ocean Beach history.

Because of the decade gone past, we can acknowledge that temporal status, and perhaps some discussion can be held of the controversial storefront and the controversial movement that attempted to stop it.

With that as a goal – a discussion – allow me to outline some of the history, the reasons behind the campaign, and offer an analysis of what had gone down ten years ago.

The Campaign Against Starbucks Is Sparked

The large building at the corner of Newport and Bacon had stood vacate for years. Trash, graffiti accumulated around it. Homeless and musicians crowded what little space the place offered in front. The once tall edifice had been the original Bank of America in OB, then later it was the Left Bank – a combination crafts store, book store, community meeting space, and office for the OB Rag when we were in paper. This was in the mid-seventies.  A few years after, Peninsula Bank moved in, and stuccoed the outside and ruined the high ceilings.

Later it became a well-known coffee house, Java Joe’s, known for where Jewell got her start. Then they moved, somebody else moved in, but wasn’t successful.  So, it just stood there, empty.  Homeless folks slept up on the roof. Local merchants complained about it, about the mess in front.  But nothing was done. The then owner never stepped in and cleaned anything up. It was ignored by its owners and managers.

Around that time, a new grassroots group had exploded into community activism. OBGO (OB Grassroots Organization) had formed back in the Spring of 2000 and was growing rapidly.  The need for political activism around a number of local and regional issues had been apparent, and OBGO answered the call. The individuals who formed the group had agreed upon principles of support for human rights, the environment, diversity, and democracy.

Meanwhile, EXXON was threatening to move into OB again.  SeaWorld was attempting to circumvent the surrounding communities with a new roller coaster ride. A potential leaking toxic dump was remembered close by and needed addressing, as there were questions about what kind of poisons were flowing down San Diego River.  The City and hotel developers were itching to turn Mission Bay and the neighborhoods around it – including OB – into a tourist mecca and playland.

OBGO brought a sense of renewed activism to Ocean Beach. For a community saved and re-born in the seventies, grassroots activism had laid dormant for a number of years in the late nineties.  During the mid part of that decade, there had been a successful effort at blocking a planned board walk across the beach. But except for some activists on several park and planning boards, it had been quiet in OB for nearly half a decade.

There was an activist spirit in the air.  300 OBcians had crowded into the Rec Center gym to show their opposition to EXXON – that was in early September 2000.  OBGO also held a town hall meeting at the Women’s Club in early December of that year and over a hundred attended.  Membership jumped after that meeting. And OBGO was regularly having 30 to 40 people attend its bi-monthly meetings. OBGO activists were dealing with Sea World’s transgressions, running for the local planning committees (both OB and Peninsula), educating the community about all the hotels the city was going to allow, planning public pressure on the city to deal with the potential toxic dump.

Yet, at the March 22, 2001 OBGO meeting Kip Kruegar had a complaint.

Kip, a well-known green activist in OB for years and partner of the Green Store on Voltaire, explained how he and a few others had heard that Starbucks planned to move into the old, empty bank building at Newport and Bacon. This was terrible news for local activists.  Starbucks symbolized so many things – and much of them negative.  Why, even a video promo on OB put out by local merchants had declared that Ocean Beach was so quaint that “it didn’t even have a Starbucks.”

For many at that OBGO meeting that night, Starbucks was seen as the quintessential, yuppy, latte-sipping symbol of gentrification cruising to change our community in a very bad way. Beyond this image, Starbucks was a giant corporate franchise, and as OB’s main street was basically bereft of such animals, it would represent a first, a break-through for future franchises to make their way onto Newport Avenue. The more and more franchises that broke through the barriers of community morals, the less and less OB would remain itself.  With franchises dominating the heart of the neighborhood, it would lose its character altogether.

Kruegar explained that a group was going to hold a demonstration at the building that Sunday, three days away, in protest of Starbucks’ plans. He was hot against corporations taking over OB.  He wanted us to put energy into finding someone else to move in.  The building owner wanted $5,000 a month.  The owner, Kip said, doesn’t understand OB.  He complained also about Starbucks predatory business practices, how they take over, undercut, and oust other local coffee-serving businesses.  Right then, OB had a dozen or so coffee houses right in and around the main street.

The discussion and tone against Starbucks continued.  “By keeping them out,” someone said, ” we’d raise the value of what makes Newport unique.”  Someone else agreed, and added, “If they come in, other chains will come.”

There were other issues about Starbucks brought up. They used milk that had the bovine growth hormone. They didn’t treat Guatemalan coffee plantation workers well.  Others discussed “doing something pro-active” by promoting local coffee places.

Kip announced that a group had sprang up to lead the anti-Starbucks campaign, and it was the Coalition to Save OB. Most that night supported his efforts and acted like they wanted to join in.  The discussion then reverted to the other issues on the agenda: Sea World’s EIR for their expansion, a toxic dump demonstration coming up, and other more mundane matters.

With the dusting off of the old “Committee” or “Coalition” that would “save OB” – a name that OB activists had used over the years when they wanted an instant name for an instant cause – Kip and others were implicitly signaling that OBGO had forgotten issues right here in OB that needed to be dealt with.  With OBGO focusing on issues outside OB, like SeaWorld, like the hotels, like the toxic dump, it was ignoring concerns right under our nose. Starbucks could open up right there on Newport.

And in looking back, Kip was right.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar ss June 10, 2011 at 12:24 pm

guess Starbucks in OB is making money They are still there

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avatar Frank Gormlie June 10, 2011 at 7:13 pm

SS – Yes, but look at this: it was just a few years ago (2 maybe?) that Starbucks closed – what was it? 400 storefronts? And for some reason they kept the OB one. Even a local columnist – from CityBeat and who lives in OB – pleaded with them to take it out. Years ago, we heard through a nefarious grapevine that Starbucks was willing to operate the OB store in the red in order not to close it and lose face. They’re too big to fall.

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avatar thinking out loud June 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm

The only thing that keeps them open is people buying coffee….Supply and demand. I see Obecians drinking Starbucks everyday…the girl who had the biggest mouth on the issue went back home to Nebraska after hanging out in OB trying to be a hippe and start a rebellion against the man…its pretty funny really.
Funnier Starbucks has a lot of part time workers and they are offered insurance…I wonder if the local coffee houses do ?? hummmm………..

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avatar Frank Gormlie June 10, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Hey TOL – most of the local coffee houses are just that, local, and small. They’re not GIANT corporations that can afford millions to do this or that. More to come, very soon, so get your comments in now.

BTW, the “girl who had the biggest mouth on the issue” is a local and she’s still around. You must have meant the Nebraskan who wasn’t really into it any how.

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avatar OB Lawyer June 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Great article Frank… and point well received, if OBcians (official spelling still pending) don’t speak up on issues and be involved in the public political process, then they certainly can’t be angry at the results right here in our community. Also interesting to see the “high water mark” for OBGO and whatever they stood for as an organization, which I also believe is the point of your article.

I wonder if the community will speak up about our still unbuilt restrooms or the upzoning of properties at the beach…. or will they remain silent and in effect offer their acceptance of such issues. Remember, silence doesn’t necessarily imply un-involvement as much as it implies acceptance.

@thinking — Wooooooooooooosh. That is the sound of the whole point of the article going right by you. Enjoy your mocha skinny nonfat half whip choca loka chino vente supremo — I’m going to Java Jungle. Support your local….bro.

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avatar Goatskull June 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Java Jungle has better coffee anyway. So does Newsbreak.

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avatar Patty Jones June 10, 2011 at 7:14 pm

I still say you just put the B in the Ocean… OBcean, but that’s just me…

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avatar Gary Gilmore June 11, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I’m with Patty on the spelling thing.

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avatar Wireless Mike June 10, 2011 at 2:44 pm

I don’t understand why people wait in line and pay a small fortune for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. A cheap French-press coffee maker may not have the snob appeal of Starbucks, but it makes a pretty good cup of coffee for a lot less cash.

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avatar Glenn Goss June 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm

I ? OB! It is my home and I have been blessed by life. I am fortunate to live in such an awesome place. I ? OB! OK… Now I’m sorry, but what is the deal with hating Starbucks? I mean a real reason. Not some off-the-cuff, nice sounding hippy-dippy answer, I mean a logical one. I haven’t found one that isn’t completely silly or full of hypocrisy. Allow me to disseminate.
BUT, first of all, I want to thank all of you OBsians for banning the Starbucks. I can’t thank you enough. Why? Because, thanks to you, I can run into Starbucks, each and every morning between 8:30 and 9am, and there is practically no one in line. I get my awesome daily fresh brewed cup o’ Joe I love, without any wait! It’s freaking awesome! It is the only Starbucks in San Diego I am aware of, where I can run in and be out (at that time in the morning) and it only takes about two minutes of my valuable time each and every day. I’d be in line at any other Starbucks for about a half-an-hour at that time. But in OB, I am in and out in 2 minutes.
I love Starbucks. Their coffee is the BOMB! Nice and strong, just the way I like it.
I have heard some say “NO STARBUCKS IN OB” because these OBcians want to keep “Corporate America” out of OB? Excuse me, you’re a bit late.
Allow me to give my 2 cents about the whole “No Starbucks in OB thing”? People say they don’t want Starbucks because it’s “corporate,” but take a good look at the other corporate stores in OB. I mean, shoot, there are TWO Subway Sandwich locations, and nobody is protesting them. Aren’t the banks corporate? How about 7/11? Nobody’s complaining about them and their corporate Slurpies. Sure, you make a BIG stink when Exxon tries to break ground (and I hate Exxon as much as the next tree hugger) but we do need gas. We have Shell and Arco, no one is banning them. Speaking of corporate OB, have you ever been to the corporate store called Rite Aid in OB? With the beer specials there, it is the busiest store in OB – and clearly one of the busiest Rite Aids in San Diego County for sure. I am almost guaranteed a 15 minute wait max almost every time I go there (to buy cheap beer of course). It’s corporate, AND it is the busiest store in OB. Huh? Why do we choose to pick on Starbucks, and not these other corporate stores in OB? At least Starbucks opens it’s doors with clean restrooms open to the general public. A much need public service provided by the nice folks at Starbucks.
And then there are those who claim it’s because of the “milk” at Starbucks – it comes from cows that had the “bovine growth hormone?” Yeah, so what? So does Apple Tree. *You want milk without hormones; go to our awesome specialty grocery store, The People’s Market. Health Concerns? Bullsh*t! Here’s a dose of reality for you: It can’t be because of health concerns, because only a block away from People’s Market is a MEGA-Corporate Dealer of “food” (if you can call it that) laced with tons of hormones. That place is ?Jack In The Box ?. Yuck! And even though I wouldn’t eat that garbage if they were giving it away free, every time I drive past the place, it there are a gaggle of cars in the drive thru, waiting in line to get their super-sized portion of ultra-processed mega-corporate death burger. YUM! ? Wasn’t it just a few years ago that they had found ?horse ?meat in their burgers? But they get a free pass? That makes sense.
So in summation, I smile wide and laugh out loud, whole heartedly, at the ridiculous folks who ban Starbucks, and their harebrained, absurd reasons for doing so. However, once again, I thank you, for making my days easier, because I don’t have to stand in a line that strings out the building. Thank you.
If I want to stand in line for a really long time, I’ll go to Hodad’s. (That’s another thing… Can you believe that people will stand in line for over a half an hour for a burger??? I know, it seems ludicrous, … but I’ll save that for another post on a different website.)
One more thing: CNN MONEY labeled Starbucks as #93 out of 100 of the best companies to work for in America! (Yuck! Is it really that bad out there?) Weather its true or not – that’s what CNN MONEY had said. And what local coffee shop offers health benefits to part time employees? For that matter, what other companies in general, offer part time employees health benefits? __________
But I don’t agree with everything CNN says. (A little off topic but definitely local) CNN wrote a story about 5 burger joints across America worth visiting, and Hodad’s was one of them. Then they were featured on the food network. As good as their burgers may be, they fall apart on ya! The bun gets all mushy from all the BS they put on there. I can’t even fit my mouth around the thing, because it’s got half a tomato on there. So if you like eating big messy burgers with a fork, then go to Hodad’s, and stand in line for a half hour with all of the other media zombies, and enjoy! Let’s face it, a skunks a**hole would taste good if you’re starving and you have to stand in line for an hour. But honestly, I have to thank those folks too, because thanks to them, there will be less people in line, wherever I am planning on having lunch right now. South Beach? =:^D
Thanks for reading my rant OB! Maybe someone can retort with an argument that hold water. That would be inspiring.
?-Out! – Glenn G.

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avatar Frank Gormlie June 10, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Glenn – I had so many laughs, it was great. You’ve very clever. Thanks, you proved my point.

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avatar Jennilee June 11, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Glenn – thoroughly enjoyed your point of view. :)

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avatar Glenn June 11, 2011 at 7:27 pm

That you Jennilee!

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avatar John June 14, 2011 at 11:29 am

Does it make any difference to the activist if the corporate storefront is a franchise? Starbucks doesn’t franchise but places like Subway does. I don’t know specifics about the owners of the stores in town but, in theory, a franchised store owned by a local is a local business. The product and namesake they sell is purchased from a corporation and sold to you making the franchise owner a middle man of sorts. Where do local business buy their goods? At the top of their supply chain is potentially a corporation just like a franchise. I imagine it would be very difficult to avoid.

The true local place should get credit for developing their own business from the ground up but maybe a locally owned franchise isn’t so bad.

Just my thoughts- Thanks

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avatar JBurger June 14, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Hilarious and spot on! Thanks!

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avatar o.b.dude June 10, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Hey folks, I have to say, I’m no fan of Starbucks–their coffee, sucks, always tastes bitter & burnt, but, hey, who’s to say someone doesn’t have the right to drink overpriced sucky coffee right on the OB’s main drag? Frank, methinks you protest too much. I’m glad we have a local like you, to tilt at windmills for the rest of us and speak truth to power and all BUT I don’t think you’ll convince many people that Starbucks is an evil interloper. If anything, the local coffee joints are doing BETTER than they were a decade ago. Has anyone been driven out of business by the Great Seattle Caffeinator? I think not. A few more have even opened. So, let some folks go to Starbucks if they choose; let the rest of us patronize all the locally-operated, wonderful coffee joints. In a democracy, you get to choose, right? Newport Street abides, Starbucks or no Starbucks. Personally, I think that shitty T-shirt chain peddling all that Chinese-made crap that took over our beautiful Strand Theater has done MUCH worse to OB’s funky feel. Where’s the outrage over that? So Frank–please save your fire for those big issues that really matter. That’s where we need the energy and outrage!

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avatar Frank Gormlie June 11, 2011 at 9:58 am

O.B. Dude (#2 – we already had another “OB Dude) – thanks for your comments. The fight against Starbucks, of course, was never over their coffee (I personally like their dark roasts – and when I’m not in OB out in the world, some times, a Starbucks cup is all there is to find. Having said that, we need to reiterate, apparently, that the fight was over the fact that a major franchise was taking root on Newport against our local culture and attitudes. It was also over the fact that a large corporation digging into mainstreet would have an effect of resulting in higher commercial lease rates on the street – a fact proven time and time again ever since. Not sure when you arrived in OB, O.B. Dude, but there was a short and spirited fight against what happened to the old Strand building, but there was not much support for that duel in the village. I’m working on Part 2 – to be published soon.

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avatar Allen Lewis June 11, 2011 at 8:24 am

First.. I would like one of those t-shirts, where do I get one. As some already know I lived in OB from 1950 to 1974,OB is my home town. I now live in a small town, Anacortes Wa. our population is 16,000 and we have two StarBucks a block and a half apart. I don’t drink there coffee but many here do. I was up in B.C. and watching a tv show about sexual abuse by managers to young girls that were hired. All but one made restitution to the young girl that was abused, yes you guessed it, it was StarBucks that DID NOT. The woman that is there human resources rep. is a real bitch. So if starBuck was the only place to get a cup I will pass.

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avatar Glenn G. June 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm

As a true Libertarian, I am truly inspired by a healthy discussion with spirited opposing viewpoints expressed vividly in a cultural diverse society. And after much thought, think the answer that by far makes the most sense is the one presented by Patty: You take OB, add it to Ocean, resulting in OBcean. For me, It’s official. =:^D

Oh … and regarding the Starbucks thing: My favorite neighborhood drug-dealer! Wireless Mike: As I mentioned in my post, “I don’t wait in Line. And I don’t by expensive fo-fo drinks that cost $5plus either. My coffee costs $2:00. And I can get in and out of there FASTER than I can hit the drive-thru at most of these place local coffee vendors. As far as a french press: I do own one, and I make coffee at home at times, but the reality is, I don’t use it daily because: I’M LAZY! It’s actually faster to just grab a coffee from StARBUCKS on the way out, after all, I’m in in and out in 2 min!

O.B. Dude: As I mentioned earlier in this post, I believe myself to be a true Libertarian. And as a Libertarian, one of the things I love, appreciate and encourage about living in a free society (especially one as rich as OB), I appreciate your opinion on which coffee vendor you prefer. Its called freedom of choice and expression – and it’s one of the cornerstones of being American. And that’s why there are choices in life. Not everyone has to like the same thing, that would be boring and blah. It’s the differences in individuals that add zest to life. Beside’s, if everyone liked the same thing, our choices would slowly be eliminated. Besides, if you liked Starbucks as much as I did, I may have to wait longer to get my morning dose of caffeine. So I applaud your viewpoint.
Frank: Thank you for your comment and compliment. You are very astute to recognized my cleverness as it is a great act of cleverness to be able to conceal one’s being clever. Plus you were able to effectively find, digest and comprehend my humor in the piece; and that in and of itself is a sign of intelligence. I appreciate your feedback.
The bottom line is that, Newport didn’t go up in flames since Starbucks had come to OB. In all actuality, the opposite has happened. They have cleaned the place up, local coffee vendors aren’t feeling a negative effect from their new competitive neighbor in town, as many have pointed out, they are thriving. It’s Starbucks, not Walmart. And Ocean Beach is still alive and kicking, still packed with DIVERSITY.
FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT ARE A BIT SLOW,… let me reiterate, in plain & simple honest English, my position on the ban. I AM IN FAVOR OF IT ALL THE WAY! (I just don’t ad here to it). I’d love one of those T-Shirts as well, with the seagull crapping in the SB cup. Awesome! Please continue to convince your friends to STAY away from Starbucks. Please continue to share your opinions about how the coffee there is substandard to the local coffee vendors. Please continue to with the relentless anti-Starbucks campaign with vigilance, PLEASE. Because I really appreciate the fact that the the line in Starbucks is almost practically non-existent, and I really don’t want that to change. All’s well that ends well. BRAVO Ocean Beach! Keep up the good work!
Enjoy the majestic beauty that well call home. See you on the beach!
Glenn G.

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avatar mr.rick June 11, 2011 at 8:01 pm

As for the spelling issue. Growing up in Ocean Beach gives a person a certain amount of lattitude in being candid about OB. I’m gonna place my vote right now for putting the B in the Ocean. It will be alot eaiser for alot of people to try and understand the concept. And with so many people comming in and out of OB, it will be alot eaiser for all of us burn-outs to grasp the situation.Whatever that means.

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avatar OB Mercy June 11, 2011 at 9:29 pm

SO glad I only drink herbal tea!!!

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avatar Allen Lewis June 11, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Once again Mr. Rick I have to ask… what’s your point, the story your posting on is about StarBucks in OB. If a story needs to be about what do we call the people that live in OB today then post one. As for the face of OB today, in February I came home for a visit and it wasn’t the StarBucks, (you find them everywhere) that made me think OB has changed again. You can’t choose one company to exile and except others. If you read my earlier post you will see that I will not visit a StarBucks, it’s not because of where it’s at.

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avatar Citizen Cane June 12, 2011 at 9:19 am

Ten years ago the Little Chef was my place for coffee on Newport. I liked to get my coffee with a gyros burrito on the side. I don’t think I can blame Starbucks for the loss of the Little Chef, but I’ve yet to see the inside of the Starbucks. I stubbornly stick to the boycott.

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avatar Frank Gormlie June 12, 2011 at 10:30 am

Mr. Cane – me too. I’ll stick to the unofficial boycott. I miss Little Chef – had lots of burgers there in the early and mid-60’s. There used to be a burger joint in one of those small storefronts alongside the old Strand. 5 burgers for a buck! Can you imagine??

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avatar SKAR June 13, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Yeah, I was there ten years ago…supporting Starbucks is the equivelant of placing your vote to level Newport and build a Wal-Mart.

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avatar mr.rick June 14, 2011 at 11:32 am

Allen, the free form conversation the Rag seems to inspire, gives me that Local lattitude I was refering to earlier. And as a Local burn-out of some ill-repute I reserve the right to wander off topic as I see fit. But,the comment was in reference to Glenn G. and his mention of OBcean. But as someone who did also grow up in OB (1952-1991) I would probably take offence at being refered to as any thing other than an OB Local. Maybe Longhorn might be alright but Longhorns are a certain sect of Loc’s.

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avatar Allen Lewis June 14, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Sorry Mr. Rick I don’t mean to offend , I have found my self wondering off point at times, who am I to judge. I don’t see the comment up here, but I got a mail about a comment about StarBucks not franchising. Well they do, we have two of then here and one is a franchise.

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avatar John June 14, 2011 at 1:23 pm

“Starbucks actually isn’t a “franchise.” Starbucks claims to offer a variety of flexible coffee and tea “programs” (or stores) for a variety of different markets. Some of these markets include colleges & universities, healthcare, hotels & resorts and existing restaurants. They also will consider qualified high volume or high traffic retail locations, so if you qualify for any of the above, it may be worth a shot inquiring about how these programs work. ”

http://franchises.businessmart.com/how-much-does-a-starbucks-franchise-cost.php

Starbucks website has no mention of a real franchise that I can find. I think you can open a coffee shack but opening a real physical starbucks might be tough.

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avatar mr.rick June 14, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Allen Lewis,Thanks Bro!

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