Mega-retailer Starbucks’ decision to close some Fort Worth locations is causing howls in Arlington Heights – to the point that locals interceded with a landlord to get their favorite java joint a break on the rent.
When neighbors learned that the Starbucks shop at Camp Bowie Boulevard and Hulen Street was one of 60 Texas locations (including four in Fort Worth) on the short list to close, they came in to complain. Baristas are not allowed to officially speak to the media or advocate for themselves and can only hand out comment cards. So Westsiders got busy, sending in dozens of postage-paid comment cards to the coffee giant’s corporate HQ. The message: Don’t close my Starbucks. That kind of response is actually part of a national trend, sparked by last month’s announcement that the Seattle-based company will close 600 stores across the country. A group of people unaffiliated with the retailer launched a web site called Save Our Starbucks – mostly a forum for people to vent about losing their particular store but also a place where latte lovers can sign a petition that is supposed to be sent to the firm’s headquarters. There’s a fair amount of angst over frappuccino withdrawal but also a strong “you have to be kidding/get over it” sentiment in the postings. “I know how to save Starbucks,” one Camp Bowie patron said. “Lower the prices. The price of gas is eating up the money I can afford to spend on coffee.”
Brandy O’Quinn, president of Camp Bowie District, Inc., said her nonprofit public improvement district has a vested interest in keeping the Arlington Heights shop open. As opposed to other locations with drive-through windows, this one is actually a ‘hood hangout, where people gather to chat and drink their coffee, she said. “The last thing we want is vacant space” in that area. While the location is relatively busy for most of the day, O’Quinn acknowledged that that part of Camp Bowie “goes to sleep” after 6 p.m. Between that and fairly high rents along the boulevard, this Starbucks hasn’t been making much profit, she said. So a member of her group called the out-of-state property owner, who agreed to reduce the rent. With that help, O’Quinn said, “we figured … they would only have to sell between 40 and 50 more cups of something per day to break even.”
So far, Starbucks isn’t interested, but O’Quinn’s group is hoping to change that in the next few months, before the store actually closes. Locally and nationally, however, other consumers are saying that Starbucks is getting a taste of its own medicine – it has opened so many locations over the last few years that many figure the aim was to drive out all competition. In Fort Worth, within about 20 miles of downtown, the company has 101 outlets – including one inside the Target store in Montgomery Plaza and a second on the other end of the parking lot. Locally, two non-chain coffeehouses went out of business this year. Each had its own problems, but the proximity of Starbucks stores didn’t help. Off the record, Cowtown Starbucks staffers said they’ve been promised relocation to different stores but still feel in limbo. One barista said his apartment lease is up this month, and he doesn’t know whether to sign a new one, since his job may be gone by December.
So why hasn’t the corporate headquarters responded to the Westsiders’ outpouring of support for their store (or to Static’s questions)? “We have no additional information to share about this situation at this time,” said an e-mail from an employee of the Texas public relations firm apparently hired to help handle this hot potato for the Starbucks mother ship. The list of stores headed for closure “is considered final pending several … factors,” she wrote.