Queen's University — Since 1873
11th May 2004

New Starbucks brews controversy

Professor Richard Day, far left, and Grace Laing, far right, protest Starbucks’ Grand Opening on Saturday.
Professor Richard Day, far left, and Grace Laing, far right, protest Starbucks’ Grand Opening on Saturday. (Emily MacLaurin-King)

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The opening of two Starbucks stores in downtown Kingston this month is creating an intense reaction among Kingston coffee connoisseurs.

One Starbucks location will open in the former Indigo Café, while another will open at the corner of Wellington and Princess Streets.

Concerned citizens initiated a campaign of protest that included everything from sidewalk graffiti reading “Stop Starbucks!” to posters promoting a boycott. The location has been subject to particular protest throughout construction. Its walls were attacked with paint and its windows were smashed on more than one occasion.

Security measures, such as night guards and plywood barriers, were later put into place at both new locations.

Kingston resident Mary Herbert said she would boycott Starbucks because of the corporate ethics behind it.

“There seems to be lots of places like Starbucks in town already. It’s sad the way that a lot of places [such as Starbucks] run their businesses. They’re very impersonal and don’t focus on the worker,” she said.

“Also, Starbucks often lacks options for fair trade coffee.”

Marco Antonio Reiter, a newcomer to Kingston, said he does not plan on buying Starbucks food and beverage products because of its lack of community ties.

“Why should I go there? It’s an international chain. It’s run on a business basis, they couldn’t care less about the community.

“I’d rather go somewhere where local residents from different backgrounds come to,” he said.

Both Herbert and Reiter said they planned to continue their patronage of local businesses such as the Sleepless Goat and locally owned chain Coffee & Company.

A statement prepared by Starbucks Coffee Canada said the chain has established ties to community organizations such as the Partners in Mission Food Bank, Kingston Literacy and Volunteer Kingston.

“Starbucks strives to be a good corporate citizen and will be committed to contributing positively to the Kingston community,” the statement read. “Starbucks partners regularly support local organizations through coffee and pastry donations, volunteer hours and grants from The Starbucks Foundation.”

Éilis Karry, ArtSci ’04, said while she thinks that Kingston’s tourism industry will allow Starbucks to succeed, local businesses will not necessarily suffer.

Karry, who works at Coffee & Company, also said customer loyalty would help keep local coffee shops competitive.

“A lot of local coffee shops have very loyal customers,” she said.

“We have a lot of regulars who already make an effort to go out of their way to come here. It’s nice to have customers who choose to come here.”

Employees at the Sleepless Goat declined to comment, citing a desire to avoid perpetuating rivalry between the Kingston coffee shop and its soon-to-be neighbour, Starbucks.

Stephanie Hessel, ArtSci ’05, an employee at Indigo, said that there have been both positive and negative reactions to Starbucks opening in the bookstore. “While many customers are saying ‘we hate Starbucks so much,’ others are coming in and saying ‘this is great, we love Starbucks!’” she said.

On Saturday, a small protest was held outside of Starbucks. Some protesters carried signs that read “Neighbours refuse corporate brews.”

Emily Llew-Williams and Grace Laing, two students from Kingston Collegiate Vocational Institute (KCVI) who were participating in the protest, said it is important to inform people of Starbucks’ corporate practices.

“We think everyone needs to take a stand,” said Llew-Williams.

Local resident Cameron Davies said it was the presence of the protesters that made him enter Starbucks and purchase a drink.

“It’s a good thing that Starbucks is here, it shows that a company like that wants to invest in Kingston,” he said.

Managers at Starbucks declined to comment, as per company policy.

No comment was available from Starbucks Coffee Canada regarding either store vandalism or local opposition.

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