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Starbucks is coming to Athens, but local coffee shops are here to stay

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The Starbucks will be located at 16 W. Union St. Photo by Connor Perrett.

Local coffee shops react to the news that largest worldwide coffee chain is coming to Athens.

Athens buzzed last week with news of a new Starbucks opening uptown, but local coffee shops are feeling the heat from the impending competition.

The news broke last Wednesday when a Starbucks spokesperson confirmed a full-service store will open on Union Street this summer.

“I was a little surprised,” Debbie Fulks, the owner of Court Street Coffee, said.

Fulks said the news was shocking because of the chain’s presence in Athens, with kiosks in Baker Center and Kroger. She is most concerned with whether the corporation will give back to the community like the local businesses.

“Starbucks is a huge chain, and I’m a local,” Fulks said. “Money spent here stays here.”

“Maybe they will put back into the community? Will they be buying an ad in the local yearbook like I do? How far out in the community will they go?”

Starbucks touts its investment in bettering communities. The company said that although it is a publicly traded corporation, it prides itself on balancing social responsibility and profitability.

“Our stores allow Starbucks partners and customers to connect and tap into shared passions to provide a helping hand and create meaningful opportunities that can strengthen individuals and communities,” Starbucks said on its website.

Donkey Coffee & Espresso plans to continue supporting local missions and shops with the new competition.

“Donkey will continue to focus on its mission as a local business to promote fairly traded coffee which helps traditionally disadvantaged coffee growers and to provide space for local art, music and community gatherings,” Chris and Angie Pyle, Donkey Coffee owners, said in an email.

Despite the fear of large corporations, Fulks thinks there is enough room in Athens for another coffee shop.

“I think every coffee shop in Athens is different,” she said. “We have our own little niche. I would imagine that there’s room for one more coffee shop.”

Starbucks said they are excited to be a part of the Athens community, but the multi-million dollar company is also feeling the pressure.

Starbucks’ competition is rooted in independent shops, Starbucks’ CFO Scott Maw said at the 2017 UBS Global Consumer and Retail Conference.

According to Maw, the rise of mom and pop stores could push customers away from Starbucks.

“It’s that third-place environment, it’s a comfortable place to be, it’s an up-leveled coffee experience,” Maw said. “They’re not taking share [from] us but what we know is if we don’t have our service levels right and customers aren’t engaged in the right way, they now have options.”

Donkey Coffee and the Pyles’ are ready for the new competition.

“We are ready for Starbucks and think that its presence will only solidify the community’s support of Donkey and other local coffee shops,” they said.

Court Street Coffee will not change anything about its business, according to Fulks.

“You can buy local or you can buy corporate,” Fulks said.

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