Sunday, October 24, 2010


The time has come for me to avoid Starbucks. It’s not like I am officially boycotting them or anything, but my new vow is to search out all alternatives before settling on the Starbucks experience.(

Now, I actually love Starbucks. I love the consistency. I love the familiarity. I love that Howard Schultz provides health care to his P/T employees. You have to admire a lone Seattle based coffeehouse that grew to become the world’s largest coffeehouse company with over 16,000 stores and 300 more to open in 2010 alone.

So then you might ask, what’s my problem? My problem is children. Children with parents. I don’t know. I remember my very first cappuccino. It was at a small roasting company in Olympia Washington in the mid 80’s. The store was called Batdorf and Bronson, and I’m betting they are still there. It was incredible. These delicious icy cold cream ladened espressos gave many of us license to consume these several hundred calorie milkshakes, calling them “coffee” – no guilt attached. It became a weekly treat and now one that has manifested into a daily habit. I guess that explains the 16,000 stores. But it was an adult experience. It was a bar without the alcohol. The European coffeehouse was finally born in America and gave all of us adults our own hang out. We’d outgrown hanging in front of the 7-11 or meeting at Tommy's house, we now had our new place. Serving us more than just coffee concoctions and pastries, the coffeehouse was feeding our need to belong, a place of our own, a few minutes to escape and spend time among our peers. 

But it didn’t take long before the Moms, the vans and the children began arriving. Meeting the other moms in the morning, dressed in their work-out clothes, with their Buick sized strollers, taking up way too much space in the line and then plopping themselves and their offspring at the nearest table. It was beginning to look and feel like a parent run day care. So now Starbucks had to make a choice, and the choice they made I guess some would call good business sense. They added to their menu. Lots more doughnuts, mini-scones and non-coffee related items for the little ones. We’ve got the vanilla cream, strawberry cream, chocolate milk, juice boxes, you’re gonna make me scream here! So, as my blood pressure is rising, and I’m waiting in line to get my tall, non-fat, two pump mocha, extra hot with whip, I am behind two moms with their 5 kids between them. Instead of just placing the order, which I’m sure they could have figured out BEFORE they got to the front of the line, it’s more like this; “Jimmy, what do you want sweetie? You want banana bread or a blueberry muffin” The drooling little 4 year old, placing his germy little hands all over the pastry counter, can’t decide. I can’t help but keep checking the time because I, unlike Mother Theresa ahead of me, needs to be at work. In about 20 minutes. I probably sound selfish here (and I am) but I just feel like this is my place. This should be a kid-free zone. This is a place for me and my adult friends. Take your kids to McDonald Land or home. Someplace that it is okay for them to scream and yell and run. Where they can be kids and you aren’t over there scolding them over and over again to stay seated, to pick the muffin up off the floor, to quit standing up on their chair (the one that I would like to sit on but now your kid has left grimy little foot prints that I don’t want on my black work pants).

So Starbucks, sadly you just became a little too family friendly for me. So the families can have you. Because it is about much more than coffee, it is the whole package, the whole ambiance, creating a feeling that makes you feel whole. There are more and more small coffee houses popping up all over the country. And while they might be a bit slower on the pull, do some unnecessary latte art on my cappuccino, and occasionally run out of soy milk, more and more adults are gravitating to them. And I am right behind them, patiently waiting in line.

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