There’s been a lot of discussion between Brookside/Waldo neighbors about the new Starbucks setting up shop in the heart of the shopping district. So many passionate remarks against a national chain moving in; others seem to welcome the homegrown USA company that treats its employees well and produces a quality product. Does there have to be a feud between Starbucks and Roasterie patrons? Can’t we all just get along?
I visited the Starbucks earlier this week. It wasn’t very busy, probably because it was over 90 degrees outside at 4 in the afternoon! It’s a spacious store, with plenty of seating and a large counter, plus plenty of windows to people watch the pedestrians. I like the drawing on the west side of the building, and the inviting tables and chairs outside.
Coffee at this level is very much a personal preference — I find Roasterie coffee tastes smoother, and it’s hard to find another coffee spot that so expertly creates the foam latte topping as well. Roasterie offers a wide assortment of locally made snacks, chocolates and pastries, and at both places you can order ahead so you don’t have to talk to a human. But I do enjoy Starbucks coffee, generally the servers are friendly (excluding airport Starbucks in my experience!) and it can be less expensive than Roasterie. For example, a 16 oz bag of beans at Starbucks runs $14-$15; at Roasterie the 12 oz bag of beans start at $14. Lattes, straight gray coffee, expresso and teas are competitive in pricing.
There is definitely a ‘vibe’ difference between the two stores. Roasterie is more industrial, gray; it has the big open windows, a patio and games for the kids. Starbucks is a brand new store, all prettied up and organized with wood accents and sleek long counters. Roasterie feels comfortable, local and unique, partly because I’ve been going there since it opened. The Roasterie logo is unique to KC; I can walk into any USA Starbucks and know I’m in a national chain shop.
My first choice is to support Roasterie. Brooksider Danny O’Neil took that ugly corner that was once an abandoned gas station (where I got carjacked) and turned it into one of Brookside’s most beloved and popular hang out spots. This was the first Roasterie Cafe location in Kansas City, and now there are at least six Cafes around the metro area…indeed it is a locally based chain. The company does a lot to support local kids’ sports teams and donates coffee to community organizations. They mix up special blends for area restaurants and organizations. Will Starbucks do the same?
I’m sure I’ll stop in the Starbucks at times too. It seems the idea of Starbucks coming to Brookside is worse than their actual presence. If the local and national landlords that rent Brookside space on both sides of 63rd St are smart, they will keep the area primarily locally based owned and operated businesses. That is what keeps our neighborhood so special–the one of a kind stores & restaurants, the personal service, the unique items you can buy here in Brookside and Waldo. Not every local business can afford the pricey rent in this highly trafficked area, and sometimes local Brookside businesses lose their lease (for example, Shopgirls). If the landlords want to make the focus all about how much money they can make by courting only national chains, the area may not thrive as it does now. I don’t think that will happen. Brookside has changed over the years, and various services and restaurants will continue to open and close. So, now we have yet another chain, to go with Jimmy Johns, Panera Bread, Baskin Robbins/Topsy’s, CVS, Tuesday Morning, etc. Brookside/Waldo residents are known for patronizing home grown businesses–for now, the mix between local/national stores seems to work.