By Ted AYALA
It’s no secret that Starbucks Coffee has become one of the most ubiquitous beverage brands on the face of the planet with locations even in Beijing’s Forbidden City and Moscow’s famous Arbat Street. Will Honolulu Avenue be next on its glittering roster of shops?
That may be the case in the near future if Starbucks Coffee gets its way. The coffee icon is looking to bring its global brand over to Montrose, proposing to take the space at 2289 Honolulu Ave. once occupied by Color Me Mine, which has since moved next door. It would also be across the street from the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, a notion that rankled some speakers at a hearing for the location at the Planning Hearing Room at City Hall on Wednesday.
“We don’t need another … Starbucks! We already have a Coffee Bean [and Tea Leaf]. It’s just a money thing,” an individual yelled out, interrupting the meeting, and ushering in a chorus of shushing and derisive snickering.
Despite the tumultuous opening, residents and business owners addressed the Planning Board in an orderly, if still tense, manner.
Terry Mansky, general counsel for the Coffee Bean, drew his and many other residents’ fears about Starbucks’ proposal in stark terms.
“This isn’t about a bias against competition,” he said addressing the audience and Planning Hearing Committee, while emphasizing Coffee Bean’s local roots in Los Angeles. “We came to be a part of the uniqueness of the Montrose Shopping Park … and built [the business] to over $1 million a day the hard way. But Starbucks is a Wall Street icon. This is a massive global chain coming into a village atmosphere. This is Wall Street versus Main Street.”
Maureen Palacios of Once Upon a Time Bookstore echoed his sentiment.
“Starbucks [will do] nothing to enhance our district,” she said. “What makes Montrose unique is the lack of a giant like Starbucks.”
Other speakers cited concerns with how a Starbucks could impact parking the area.7
“I don’t want to see that building torn down, and [a Starbucks] impacting traffic and parking,” said resident Grace Clark. “Drivers can often be inconsiderate.”
But the general sentiment in the room seemed strongly in favor of the Starbucks.
“I’ve never seen a [parking] problem there,” said resident Kendra Casper. “The problem is foot traffic. Businesses like Starbucks invite more people to come and engage in the pedestrian experience that is Montrose.”
CEO for Alta Realty, Randy Gonzalez, voiced a similar concern.
“I, as a business owner, welcome Starbucks,” he said. “Their customer base and foot traffic will be a huge plus for the community.”
Ted Frankel of Tom’s Toys urged approval of Starbucks’ proposal, adding that concerns about parking were mistaken.
“We don’t have a shortage of parking,” said Frankel. “What we have is a shortage of foot traffic. It would be great to add a tenant that will draw more traffic to the community.”
For its part, Starbucks reps also explained that it didn’t seek to destroy the atmosphere of the Montrose Shopping Park.
“Our core values really insist on us being a good neighbor and active contributor to the community,” said Mike Abbate who represented Starbucks. He also cited Starbucks’ ability to create jobs, explaining that the Montrose location would create 16 positions. “These are good jobs with benefits,” he said. Abbate also cited similar Starbucks stores in Claremont and Sierra Madre as examples of its ability to open a shop without having a detrimental effect on the small town feel of the surrounding area.
“We blend in with Main Street everywhere we go,” he added. “We’re not trying to de-brand the area.”