Siouxland Observer

Master of Science

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

We Are All Welcome Here

The Omaha World-Herald recently ran a story entitled “Rural Coffee Battle Brewing” (Omaha World-Herald, October 31, 2006). In the story, writer Paul Hammel reported Starbucks, the coffee chain on every other corner in cites across the world, is planning to expand to rural areas. According to Hammel, the company is going to increase its U.S. outlets from 7,500 to 20,000. The question is where will they put them?

Not too many years ago, a resident of Sioux City could not even get a cup of this coffee. Starbucks? Who needs it? Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your attitude, now they are with us all.

A cup of Starbucks coffee is good; much better than the locally homegrown kind. Like a McDonald’s cheeseburger, it is always the same. Or pretty close, anyway.

For those of you who visit this space, you may have seen my musing on the battle in Worthington, MN. Much of the anger in the community against what is seen as arrogant Hispanics (many of whom are typed as illegal immigrants) can be found on grimy walls in places like the Blue Line Café truck stop.

This is a small town, which according to Hammel’s prediction will soon host a Starbucks. There is none now, but just down the road from the Blue Line Café Hispanics and locals can be found sitting together in the local McDonald’s Restaurant. This is rarely seen in haunts with a more “local” flavor, such as the Blue Line. Yet it must happen.

I have not queried local Hispanics, as this posting is more a muse than an article, but one needs only enter the Worthington McDonald’s to find the world’s melting pot. Can we view Starbucks as the same? The kind of place all the World’s citizens are welcome? A place no one will attack, at least not passively?

In Hammel’s article a local coffee shop of several years in North Platte, now opposite a newly opened Starbucks, is losing money to the tune of $150 to $250 a day. The Java Junction is holding on, waiting for the “newness” to wear off. Will it? Or will another Starbucks open on the corner over, forcing the Java Junction to close?

Here in Worthington, and even perhaps in Siouxland, coffee shops such as The Daily Grind often serve local people. The Java Nau in Worthington, for example, caters to local tastes. The question is, do they also cater to local attitudes? Is the coffee served with care for some and not others? More cream for “Buck” just off the truck from his place down the road?

Only the locals know for sure.

Coffee with attitude? Food with mood? The graffiti on a grimy wall. The stares of angry faces looking for a reason to hate. Not so much at Starbucks, or McDonald’s.

Perhaps that is why we don’t complain too much when yet another McDonald’s opens, say over by the new Target store on the east side of town. Or another Burger King in South Sioux City. It’s all in the family, after all. We are all welcome here.