A Brooksider Walks Into The Starbucks…

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?

Starbucks inside


Starbucks mural

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 thank you Brooksideplaces 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. 


Brookside Coffee Battle? Roasterie vs. Starbucks

That title is a bit misleading…there are several places you can get a  coffee  in downtown Brookside.  But the recent Kansas City Star report about Starbucks possibly moving into the Goodcents location at 6304 Brookside Plaza has many residents concerned:  will our beloved Brookside become as bland and generic as parts of Overland Park (or Lees Summit, or Olathe, etc)?  I’m optimistic this is not going to happen.


The Roasterie Cafe in Brookside

Brookside is the first location owner (and longtime Brookside resident) Danny O’Neill chose for his coffee spot.  It was an immediate success.  (Remember when there was an ugly gas station on that corner? I do, as I was carjacked there!).  Like so many locally owned Brookside establishments (think Stuff or 5 B Candle or Worlds Window), The Roasterie Cafe is similar to a village town pub: how often do you walk in and see someone you know?  It’s a gathering place not only for liquid refreshment but so much more:  students doing homework; parents taking a break with kids; getting a project done on the laptop.   Yes, all that can happen at an anonymous Starbucks but it’s special  at Roasterie.  It’s a different  feeling  because it’s local–and I think that unique, Brookside vibe is what neighbors want to protect.  The Roasterie Cafe is a great neighbor, supporting area  community causes and being so active in the our city.  Will Starbucks do the same? Perhaps. But it’s a big step above a national when the locally based business owner  is so involved,  visible and vested in his hometown.  Mr. O’Neill  doesn’t have to answer to Wall Street investors.  He can easily partner with other local businesses, use and promote other home grown products, create special blends for area restaurants, donate gift cards to  fundraisers.  You could probably even reach him directly on the phone!  And honestly, no Starbucks anywhere will ever have the same warm sweater feeling as an organically home grown coffee shop.  

I remember years ago, when Starbucks opened at the corner of Westport Road and Broadway, just a few steps from the Broadway Cafe. There was an outcry at that time as well to keep national chains out of Westport.  After several years, Starbucks shut down and the Broadway Cafe is still going strong.  We have several chain stores in Brookside that neighbors  patronize; the mix seems to work. It is extremely expensive to open and operate your own small business, especially in a highly desirable  location with pricey rent like Brookside. Big national chains have  millions of dollars to play with.  That’s why it is imperative that we support locally owned shops, restaurants and services–here in our neighborhood and when travelling.  Brookside thrives as a destination shopping and dining area because of the unique, one of a kind places you find here….and because area residents recognize their importance and support them financially.  

roasterie cup

Would Starbucks ever create something as unique as this?

Like many Brooksiders, I enjoy a Starbucks beverage every so often.  But I’ll always stop at Roasterie over a national chain. Nothing beats the creamy foam created on their lattes! Thank you for supporting locally owned Brookside/Waldo businesses!