Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Starbucks Delocator

5. April 2005 • Scott Trudeau
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Via BoingBoing

”’The Delocator’ is a site that helps you find independent alternatives to Starbucks in your neighborhood. So why isn’t it called the ‘Starbucks Delocator ’? Because the San Francisco Art Institute was too scared that Starbucks would come through with the corporate smack-down. Of course this renaming means the site won’t show up in google when people search for ‘Starbucks’, and what’s the point if people can’t discover it? Carrie McLaren is out to change that: she’s launched a google campaign to get people to link to it by its real name, the Starbucks Delocator. Take that chilling effects. Starbucks Delocator

I searched 48104 and got Ambrosia, Sweetwater, Cafe Verdé, Rendevous, and Espresso Royale. You can leave images of and comments about your favorite cafe and add a new one if it’s not already listed.

Update: I put on my troublemaker hat and registered StarbucksDelocator.com and StarbucksLocator.com and pointed them at delocator.net (Scott)



  1. i’m going to vent here:

    guys, lets face it, there’s nothing wrong with starbucks…

    sure, they have shady prison labor practices, but what capitalist these days doesnt, and as for their own workers, name me another coffee shop that offers health care to part timers…anyone???

    oh, but they put small, independent shops out of business!!!! bu-bu-bullshit…walk down division street in chicago, or in williamsburg in brooklyn or even state street for crying out load…they’re all packed with coffeeshops and they’re doing just fine thank you very much…

    before starbucks, most major cities didn’t even have coffee shops…cafe culture hasn’t long been an american thing…its more european, and if it fits anywhere in america, its more an ann arbor/berkeley/portland kind of thing…i won’t touch the subject of suburbs, but as for cities, most americans are more about stimulating than relaxation, its our protestent work ethic…and as for the counter culture, most of them would rather drink alcohol…

    if anything, starbucks is responsible for more coffee shop culture in cities…

    i’m sorry if i sound like a commercial for starbucks right now…the main reason i don’t drink coffee there is because, above all, i don’t like the way it tastes…

    i just think that the whole hate starbucks thing is a little weird…people don’t like the ubquity of them??? i just find strange also that the same crowd my friends in atlanta bash starbucks for that but they love wafflee house, which appear on nearly ever highway exit and there’s always one in driving distance…is that not a corporate take over?? oh we like that one…

    you don’t like starbucks, don’t go there…i don’t go there, because fortunately there are many many other options…perhaps i use this delocater to find more…thoughts…

    born to be wired,
    ari p.
       —Ari P.    Apr. 6 '05 - 04:09PM    #
  2. Ari,

    Don’t apologize. I’ve just been defending Ikea, the Wal*Mart of modernist furniture. =)

    I don’t like Starbucks and I don’t go there and I usually don’t fret about it—but the convergence of yeserday’s 9th circuit court announcement plus the delocater.net site (which I think is a useful and well done project) led to a burst of inspiration.

    What’s bad about Starbucks, in no particular order:

    They’re training a generation of coffee drinkers to prefer over-roasted charcoal to the superior taste of quality, lightly roasted coffee. They could do a hell of a lot more for Fair Trade and be fairer to farmers; thet could engage in better environmental practices in the growing of their coffee; and they’re omnipresent so they’re a great target for building awareness around those issues (think Nike:sweatshops; non-branded clothing comes from conditions just as bad or worse than Nike, but making an example out of Nike can arguably have an impact on the industry). If you can get Starbucks to do something, you make a huge dent in any problem in the coffee-shop related world, just because they’re so huge.

    That, and I used to live on a block (S. State b/w William and Liberty) that was populated primarily by locally owned businesses (even if they were owned by local jerks). Post-Starbucks, that same block is primarily occupied by chain stores, with only the Diag Party Shop (due to an insanely cheap, long-term lease) and locally owned bars and coffee shops having survived. They haven’t put coffee shops out of business, but they didn’t help keep rents low enough for Deckers drugs, or Ethnic Creations or Maize & Blue low enough for them to stick around. So it’s kind of personal. They probably didn’t the shift, but they’re surely a harbinger of that sort of change, and so I don’t like them, I say so, and I do what I can to encourage people to do what I do and not shop there… even if they do treat their employees relatively well compared to the service industry in America, in general.
       —Scott    Apr. 6 '05 - 04:48PM    #
  3. The demise of Decker Drugs is due as much to changes in the pharmacy industry as high rents. Retail pharmacies are finding it increasingly difficult to stay in business, due to the rise in alternatives such as internet and mail order pharmacies, and the fact that many insurance plans require their subscribers to use mail order pharmacies. The new UAW contract is an example of that. Large chains such as CVS or Rite Aid can survive due to their purchasing power, but small independents are disappearing because they just can’t compete with their larger retail competitors or with mail order and internet pharmacies.
       —tom    Apr. 7 '05 - 09:55AM    #
  4. Actually tom, the demise of Decker Drugs at the time was due to high rents. I talked to Jim Decker as the store was closing and he said their business was the best it had ever been, but they just couldn’t support the rent.

    From the 5/5/03 Daily: “Decker’s lease was for five years, at $108,000 per year. In addition, the out of state landlord instituted a “triple-net lease” for the building that housed the store – Decker was responsible for rent, insurance, taxes, and maintenance.”

    The overhead on shampoo just isn’tas high as the overhead on noodles.
       —Julie    Apr. 7 '05 - 10:05AM    #
  5. Julie,
    Thanks for that bit of info. I have been working with several pharmacists lately on a project I have going on, and all have been talking about how difficult it is for retail pharmacies because of the changes I outlined.
       —tom    Apr. 7 '05 - 10:27AM    #
  6. tom, your point is valid, it just wasn’t the case with this particular situation. As far as I know, Village Apothecary and the Prescription Shop are both still doing well downtown, but Village Apothecary is the only drugstore left downtown and the Prescription Shop carries a lot of disability supplies (walkers, crutches, etc.) and has free daily deliveries to local addresses, so they have created their own niches.

    Also, although the University prescription benefit did limit supplies to only one month if you got them from a local pharmacy (three months for mail-order), enough people complained and as of this January, there is no longer a penalty against local pharmacies.
       —Julie    Apr. 7 '05 - 10:45AM    #
  7. before starbucks, if you were traveling you often couldn’t find any decent coffee. My wife travels for business a lot, and I garantee you she knows the starbucks on the Ohio turnpike, and many others, because often there is no local alternative. We would always prefer a local shop, get a chance to see the local color. But, more often we don’t have any option and are just glad to have a starbucks.

    Also, while I can certainly see us using the delocater to try and find an alternative to starbucks while in a town, if anyone needs to use it to find a local coffee shop in thier own area, then they need to get out more.
       —Just a Voice    Apr. 7 '05 - 10:45AM    #
  8. Julie, is the $108k pre-hike, or post? And triple-net (I assume) was the new state of things? I take it (from my real estate class) that triple-net is a relatively new model of rent, getting away from the model where the business pays the landlord for “the service of having a space suitable for business” and instead pays the landlord simply for square footage, and then pays everything else. Does the payment from business to landlord normally go down when the burden of the rest of the costs moves to the tenant? Of course not.

    Ari, see Todd Leopold’s periodic comments on the barriers to local business relative to national chains. Basically for the reasons he describes, I consider (for example) Starbucks to be an effective monopoly player (How many Starbucks are there? And how many Cafe Ambrosias?) that can unfairly outcompete any local business.
       —Murph    Apr. 7 '05 - 10:52AM    #
  9. JaV, sure, Starbucks brought “high-quality” coffee to the masses. However, if you look at what happens on, as a perfect example, the Ohio Turnpike, you’ll see the problem. Starbucks gets exclusive coffee contracts to, for example, every oasis on the Ohio Turnpike. Even if the Ohio Turnpike were to run right through Ann Arbor and plop an oasis in the middle of town, there wouldn’t be a bid for who gets to run the coffee shop in the oasis – it would automatically be Starbucks. If Starbucks were to contain itself to the areas where there’s no alternative, that’s fine, but monopoly (non)bidding in places where there could be a choice is just plain wrong.
       —Murph    Apr. 7 '05 - 11:03AM    #
  10. Murph, I don’t know any more details about the Decker rent structure than that quote from the Daily. I saw a number a few years ago of how much a business had to make per day in order to pay for the average retail space in the State St. area. My recollection was that it was $5000/day just to pay the rent/utilities. Does anyone know the number for sure and if that is gross or net?

    As for the Ohio turnpike, that is my idea of hell. We never take it anymore, we go the more local roads and have found that if you plan the route in advance it actually ends up taking about the same or only slightly more time as taking the turnpike (well, if you don’t count stopping at the various ice cream stores, diners, antique stores, etc. along the way). As a bonus, the terrain is more varied and interesting so you need far less coffee to stay awake.
       —Julie    Apr. 7 '05 - 11:43AM    #
  11. Re: the turnpike

    Highway 2 is definitely a nice ride and doesn’t take much longer when you’re heading that way, but it’s got a very high accident rate, IIRC.

    Re: prescription drugs

    “Also, although the University prescription benefit did limit supplies to only one month if you got them from a local pharmacy (three months for mail-order), enough people complained and as of this January, there is no longer a penalty against local pharmacies.”

    This is true and I’m thankful for it (a happy Apothecary customer). But I get the sneaking suspicion they did this to basically mask the tripling of the prescription drug co-pay. It used to be $7/generic script. When they switched plans, it stayed at $7/script, but only for a month rather than 3months worth. This isn’t a big deal for folks who only need an occasional prescription, but it tripled the cost for folks with chronic conditions. When you get three months filled now, you pay $21. Not a back breaker, for sure, but the instant tripling of any monthly cost (especially if you need multiple scripts) is not insignificant, especially if you’re on the lower end of the pay scale.
       —Scott    Apr. 7 '05 - 04:13PM    #
  12. And I totally admit much of my anti-Starbucks attitude is a semi-emotional, gut reaction. And I’m ok with that. =)
       —Scott    Apr. 7 '05 - 04:14PM    #
  13. Scott,
    I’m a little confused when you say “it tripled the cost”. Whether you pay $7/Rx for a one month supply, or $21/Rx for a three month supply, you are still paying $7/month for each Rx, right?
       —tom    Apr. 7 '05 - 04:31PM    #
  14. We use Route 20 through Ohio. Highway 2 does have a lot of accidents.

    tom, it used to be that if you got a three-month supply of medication at one time, you only had to pay as if it was one refill. So you got three for the price of one. Now you can get three at once, but you have to pay for each one. I’m not going to complain. We still have it better than most.
       —Julie    Apr. 7 '05 - 05:15PM    #
  15. I grew up near Saratoga Springs, New York and learned to love coffee shops through my experiences at Madeline’s – a wonderful locally owned business. Starbucks moved in across the street (literally) saying they in no way wanted to detract from Madeline’s. Within months, Madeline’s was gone.
    Broadway (the main drag) has undergone a massive transformation, as Pope’s pizza had to move out of town in order to make way for a massive Borders.
    Now Broadway also has a Gap, etc.
       —Andrew    Apr. 8 '05 - 07:35AM    #
  16. Is it any surprise that when an area is getting “HOT” that the ones that can afford the increased rents are companies who either have A) one hell of a business or B) a refined support structure (i.e National Chain Starbucks) which allows them to pay and guarantee payment on the higher rents the Landlord is now requesting.
    Regarding triple net – almost every location worth being at is charging triple net.
    I wouldnt blame Starbucks for “raising rents” just taking their business sytem to locations where customers are requesting it.
    Why not get angry at the landlords for not giving “breaks” to local retailers. That is silly. Just because Starbucks is a big easily indentifiable target does not mean they are all bad. In fact, while they may not be perfect, what the heck more do you want them to do? They are a company not a charity – they are in business. They probably do more than ANYBODY in the world for Fair Trade, Shade Grown because of their volume alone. If they carry fair trade in every retail store – then right there they are doing more for farmers and Fair Trade then anybody. Take away Starbucks and do you really think that we would even be close to having this many outlets for fair trade. Locals do not have the wherewithal to have that kind of global impact. Come on – they are not a chemical company wrecking the environment, they pay pretty well, they give health care to part timers, Geeez what do you really want from a publicly traded company whose shareholders want profit? I’d say they are about as good as capitalism can offer. Not the best and not perfect but better than most.
    If you want to protest Starbucks you have too much time on your hands and do not understand how having Starbucks as a decent corporate citizen and viable company in the US has benefitted this country as a whole.
       —John    Jul. 26 '05 - 10:59PM    #
  17. I hear Starbucks employs people to surf the net, googling “starbucks”, and then doing some grass-roots P.R. work. That is, they visit blogs that bitch about Starbucks, and add in some “gosh, guys, think about it” pro-Starbucks commentary—sometimes months after the original discussion took place. Yep, P.R. guys who probably have bland, middle-America names like “John”. Interesting.

    And yeah, I made that first part up. I’ve never actually heard this about Starbucks, but I have read that companies in general are doing such things.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 27 '05 - 09:40AM    #
  18. So, John, let’s say Starbucks makes Fair Trade coffee available to its customers – and charges extra for it – and 1% of customers choose it. Meanwhile, Cafe Verde and (I think) Cafe Ambrosia use only Fair Trade coffee, so 100% of their customers choose it. But lets assume that Starbucks sells 1 million times as much coffee as Cafe Verde, so Starbucks is selling 10,000 times as much Fair Trade coffee as Cafe Verde.

    Under your formulation, that’s good – we should admire Starbucks for doing a lot for Fair Trade standards. I, personally, think that’s pathetic. Starbucks doesn’t do Fair Trade because it’s “good”, Starbucks does Fair Trade because they see it as a niche market. Fair Trade occupies the same position at Starbucks as Raspberry Caramel Mocha Whatever – it’s just another menu item. They’re not doing anything good, they’re just capitalizing on other people’s concerns.

    You say, “they are about as good as capitalism can offer.” I say that’s totally false. Cafe Verde and Cafe Ambrosia do not operate outside of capitalism – they operate in exactly the same system as Starbucks (and Ambro only a block and a half from a Starbucks).

    Maybe we just have an irreconcilable difference of priorities – you’re interested in net goodness, even if it’s inadvertant, or cynically done as a marketing ploy. I’m interested in potential goodness, and living up to that potential. Starbucks totally falls flat on that measure.
       —Murph    Jul. 27 '05 - 11:07AM    #