It's all happening. A new Starbucks outpost on Union Avenue in Williamsburg will open its doors bright and early next Monday morning, ready to caffeinate local yupsters en route to the Lorimer/Metropolitan L stop. A company district manager confirmed that the store will open its doors and rev up its blenders "first thing Monday morning," July 21st. Sorry, Reverend Billy.
The new #WbrgStrbks inhabits the ground floor of a swank new apartment complex at 405-409 Union Avenue. It's a perfect fit for a building packed with $2300/month studios promising "affordable luxury." Hours will be "probably the same as our Greenpoint location," Edward, the district manager, told us. "So we'll be open by 6 a.m. and then see what works for the neighborhood in terms of closing."
Along the newly be-Starbuck'd Union Avenue today, passers-by reacted with anger, cynicism, and even fear at the coming of the great green mermaid. JP, 26, Williamsburg: "I was disappointed when I found out. I thought it was going to be like a cool, independent coffee shop. When I saw it I was like 'fuck!'" One couple, Tina and Ben, have lived in Southeast Williamsburg since 1993 and could only sigh at the sight. "There it goes," Ben said.
"We weren't surprised. The neighborhood goes that way. I will say though—our daughter who's 14 is going to be very excited having a Starbucks nearby," Tiina added.
Independently-owned The West coffee house, which operates only a block away from the incoming corporate competitor, is already reacting with plans to alter its menu. "I know we're fazing out our sandwiches right now. We're going to make our coffee menu a little tighter," barista Andrew Costa, 25, said from behind The West's to-go window. "I think everyone's nervous underneath," he added.
"I don't think we're going to lose any of our regulars. But what I'm really worried about are the people who are getting off the train at the Lorimer stop for the first time ever. They're going to see Starbucks first." Costa then pointed at his coworker standing beside the espresso machine and said, "He thinks our regulars are going to switch over."
Just outside The West, neighborhood resident Roswitha Graser, 39, listed American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, and now Starbucks as leaders of the corporatization of Williamsburg. "I'm frightened," Graser admitted, "some of these really amazing institutional places that we love are disappearing and that's the frightening part of the transition."
"I appreciate the little shops that are around here, and to me Starbucks kind of tastes like soap," Graser said.
This may sound like a classic tale of David Vs. Goliath, but The West’s focus won’t be on competing with Starbucks.... it is hard to imagine that a new generation of locals would ever find themselves in a generic coffee franchise listening to Starbucks muzak compilations.
The welcoming of Starbucks by the owner of the luxury rental condo building at Union and Ainslie marks a dramatic shift sweeping through Williamsburg. My concern is that Starbucks is just the beginning of a trend toward more expensive commercial leases, which will ultimately prove detrimental to a lively mix of small local businesses.
Williamsburg's own Reverend Billy, who has a history of pushing back against Starbucks, laid it all out in an email to Gothamist: "Sbux wants to persuade the hipsters that it is descended from Cabaret Voltaire, but it's only a chain store with bad coffee, with no cultural impact of any kind. Starbucks comes down out of the mountains after the cultural battle has been fought, to steal from the dead."
Only time will tell if #WbrgStrbks will thrive in the bourgy new upscale Williamsburg of 2014, but something tells us it's going to do just fine.