Scratch One Starbucks

This Starbucks at the corner of Sycamore and Third Street in German Village has closed. It’s fair to say that opinions are divided about that .

The coffee-obsessed Starbucks addicts are sad, of course. They’ll have to go a bit farther for their triple-spice grande cinnamon lattes and scones — but not too much farther, because Starbucks are ubiquitous in Columbus, and there are two other Starbucks that are only short walks and even shorter drives away. On the other hand, people who live in the immediate surroundings, like us, won’t be sorry to this particular Starbucks go. We might lose the so-called “Starbucks effect” — which associates Starbucks locations with higher home prices — but we’ll also lose litter, constant illegal parking by the coffee-crazed customers of the store, and lots of coffee-fueled traffic rattling through our neighborhood. And we’ve still got a nice homegrown coffee emporium, Stauf’s, that’s less than a block away.

The story around the neighborhood is that this Starbucks store, which seemed to be doing a brisk trade, was closed because Starbucks is transitioning to more of a drive-thru business model, and there is no room (fortunately) for a drive-thru set-up at this location. The drive-thru concept seems weird to me, and contrary to the whole coffee house concept in the first place — which, initially at least, sought to offer comfortable chairs and tables and friendly atmospheres that allowed customers to sit and chat and work on their laptops while sipping their cups of Joe. Now it’s grab and go and slug down your sugary concoction in the car.

This location won’t be vacant for long; a local shop that sells handmade soaps and lotions is moving from another location in our neighborhood into the former Starbucks space. And with the closure of the Starbucks those of us who walk the neighborhood won’t have to dodge the Starbucks zealots zooming around corners, mindlessly parking in no-parking spots rather than legal spots, and then backing up through pedestrian crosswalks without so much as a backward glance because they are just too important and rushed to proceed legally. I’m not sad about that.

Shopping In The ‘Hood

Many of the new large-scale developments in America are framed as “mixed-use” developments.  They are designed to offer office space, retail shops, and residential options in one planned undertaking, and they are marketed using slogans like “Live. Work. Play.” or “Eat. Shop. Live.”  The idea is that Americans want to get away from sterile suburban designs, where only houses can be found for blocks and blocks, and live in places where they can stroll to a pub, restaurant, or green grocer.

German Village is the quintessential mixed-use area, except it wasn’t pre-planned — it’s that way because that’s what life was like everywhere in America before suburbs were conceived.  Even in the core residential areas you’ll find antique stores, flower shops, coffee houses, art galleries, restaurants, and delis, as well as doctor and attorney offices and even the Franklin Art Glass Studios, which has been making stained glass window since 1924.  As a result, people are constantly out on the streets walking to these commercial establishments, which gives the area an enjoyable bustling feel.  It reminds Kish and me of our old neighborhood on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

If you have commercial establishments in your neighborhood, though, you’d better support them or they won’t be there for long.  Fortunately, this hasn’t been a problem for us.  It’s easy to frequent local businesses when they offer quality goods and services at reasonable prices.  We haven’t bought any stained glass pieces — at least not yet — but we’ve gladly purchased excellent sandwiches to go at Katzinger’s deli, freshly ground coffee at Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, and wine at the Hausfrau Haven, which offers a great selection, helpful advice from the proprietor, and a weekend wine bar to boot.  And when you’ve got G. Michael’s, Lindey’s, the Sycamore, and Barcelona, as well as more casual options, within easy walking distance, it’s not hard to spend your dining dollar in the ‘hood, either.

Shopping and eating out in our neighborhood is one of the things that I like the best about our move.  It makes German Village feel like much more of a real community.