Count ‘em — four.
That’s how many Starbucks are in all of Vermont. And soon, that’s how many will be in Bay Ridge, too.
Ridge residents are abuzz about the coming Starbucks (and it’s not just the caffeine) — a development that is forcing people to take sides in a brewing war of “venti” proportions between corporate chains and mom-and-pop coffee shops.
The newest link in the Seattle-based chain will be on Third Avenue between 84th and 85th streets, and is part of the company’s reported plan to open 75 more locations in Brooklyn over the coming years.
But some worry that local businesses can’t compete with the buying power of the so-called “McDonald’s of coffee.”
Maryann Brown, co-owner of the nearly 20-year-old neighborhood stalwart Caffe Café on Third Avenue, is not happy to see a new Starbucks open up across the street.
“I don’t think it’s right,” Brown said, citing what she believes to be the difference between community building on the part of independent owners, and corporate profiteering that takes “money out of this neighborhood.”
Some residents, however, do not think the chain stores should be demonized as impersonal monsters, and welcome the competition.
“Each neighborhood defines its Starbucks, and you can tell what neighborhood you’re in by which Starbucks you walk into,” resident Clark Estey told The Brooklyn Paper. The 40-year-old screenwriter went on to praise the company’s health benefits and profit sharing, and compared his favorite Starbucks, on 75th St. and Third Avenue, to the popular TV show “Cheers,” because “when you go in, everyone knows your name.”
Businesses come and go in Bay Ridge all the time, but the neighborhood prides itself on bucking the trend of chain stores.
Last summer, for example, on the very same day Papa John’s made headlines for opening next door to a locally owned Sunset Park pizzeria also named John’s, a brand new mom-and-pop pizzeria, Zio Toto, broke ground in Bay Ridge.
There are only three chain pizzerias in Bay Ridge, a Domino’s, a Papa John’s, and a Singas, all located on the outskirts of the neighborhood.
While most businesses remain independently owned, the neighborhood has not been impervious to restaurant chains in the past. Longtime residents may recall Wetson’s, White Castle, and Roy Rogers — which have been replaced by Nathan’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Burger King, respectively. There are also two McDonald’s in Bay Ridge.
Still, these fast-food chains have not posed much of a threat in a town well known for its numerous, regularly packed independently owned restaurants.
So why all the fuss?
The four local Starbucks will be competing against five Dunkin’ Donuts, two Chock full o’Nuts — and a steady number of mom-and-pop shops that have weathered the chains for many years already.
“At least we’ve got choices,” said Matt Bartnik, a 26-year-old lifelong resident and local electrician who takes his coffee light, with two sugars, wherever he can get it.
And there might be room for reciprocating percolators after all.
“Sometimes if they run out of coffee filters, they borrow from us, and we’ve done the same for them” said one Starbucks employee about Paneantico across the street.