BOSTON (CBS) – Let me get something straight right off the top – I am not a Starbucks guy. I don’t mind a “gourmet” cup of coffee once in awhile, but you will tend to find me in line at Dunkin Donuts for my small iced with skim and sugar, year-round, of course.
But the recent uproar in the North End over a proposal to put a new Starbucks there has me wondering what, exactly, the fuss is all about? As Nestor Ramos of the Boston Globe pointed out in a recent column, the shuttered bank is an eyesore, and the proximity of several other Starbucks outlets to the historic neighborhood hasn’t seemed to pose much of a threat. Yet at emotional public meetings, critics painted a dire picture of local businesses closing and undesirable elements flocking to use the Starbucks bathrooms.
Listen, I love my hometown’s historic charm as much as anybody, did my part to fight the idea of tearing down Fenway Park, and bemoaned how they destroyed the West End back in the day. But the success of the local stop-Starbucks effort and proposals to put even more roadblocks in the way of retail chain store investment seem more parochial and shortsighted than preservational.
Starbucks wasn’t talking about putting up a parking lot. Their stores are clean, popular community gathering spots, well within the parameters of positive neighborhood development. Big chains with deep pockets can and do drive rents up, but that’s the work of local landlords, not Starbucks executives.
North Enders want to control what happens in their neighborhood, and that’s fine. But I have advice for some who are going overboard with the protectionism – time to switch to decaf.