2006_11_joecoffee.JPGTired of your job and want to strike out and open up a coffeehouse, even though your friends think you're crazy? Jonathan Rubinstein and his successful Joe coffeehouses were profiled in the Jobs section of the Times, $14,000 espresso machine and all. Rubinstein prices his java similarly to Starbucks and his customers will wait for his beautifully brewed coffees and espressos (the image is from the Joe website). With three locations (Waverly Place, East 13th Street, Greene Street at the Alessi store) , Rubinstein, a former talent agent, hopes of expanding but...

Joe has stiff competition from Starbucks, which now has 170 cafes in Manhattan, as well as from a new crop of coffee connoisseurs who are trying to fulfill their own entrepreneurial urges. Mr. Rubinstein said he recently found an ideal location, also on East 13th Street, only to learn that another cafe was scheduled to open down the block.

Edward Rogoff, a professor of management at Baruch College, said he saw room in New York for small players like Joe. “People like local places,” he said. “Maybe part of the formula is just not being Starbucks.”

That's so true. And opening up a cafe is attractive - you've got a place to hang out all day automatically! The thing is that Starbucks has a death grip on Midtown and other commercial districts, because rents are so high that it can be hard to get retail space. Then again, maybe customers are comfortable with going to Starbucks because they know how to game the system.

What's your favorite "not-Starbucks" or "not-Duane Reade"? If smaller chains like Fairway, Le Pain Quotidien or Love the pharmacy count, then they are on our list.