Coffee war!

for The Brooklyn Paper
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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 Longtime residents may recall Wetson’s, White Castle, and Roy Rogers — which have been replaced by Nathan’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Burger King, respectively.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.

Updated 4:34 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Brooklyn Resident from Bayridge says:
I have just submitted a comment to Starbucks describing how dismayed I am at their corporate greed. While I have patronized some Starbucks locations I was pretty annoyed that they are opening one on 3rd Avenue, between 84th-85th Streets, across the street from Caffe Cafe which has been in the neighborhood for many years. While I don't think the managers of the Starbuck corporation will respond to one comment, I think if everyone writes a letter and patronizes any of the other vendors, it might hit them in their coffers.
Dec. 8, 2007, 9:32 pm
Meredith from Bay Ridge says:
First of all, Starbucks coffee tastes burned. It's gross. And they've duped people into thinking they're an ethical company. So what if they offer good health insurance and profit sharing? They lied about using fair trade beans, and they are far from environmentally friendly. The kind of people who patron starbucks are clueless and can't see the big picture.
Dec. 11, 2007, 5:28 pm
Bob from Bay Ridge says:
Dunkin' DOnuts are independently owned shops. They are owned by local people who buy the right to franchise the shops, so they are at least keeping $$$ in the community--the guy who owns it lives here.

Charbuck$ on the other hand does nothing for anyone. Talk to a shop manager if you want to know how "generous" their benefits are. Maybe for an entry level employee the small health plan contribution makes a difference, but for a manager, it means next to nothing.
Jan. 5, 2008, 11:05 am

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