Does the New Crown Heights Starbucks Threaten Small Neighborhood Businesses?

By Irene Chidinma Nwoye Thu., Oct. 16 2014

The coffee tension brewing in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, started after Starbucks opened a new location right beside a four-year-old coffee shop, the Pulp and the Bean. Owner Tony Fisher is not necessarily scared of the competition. But he believes Starbucks will usher in even more commercial chains, causing the rent prices in the already expensive neighborhood to continue to soar. While Fisher appears visibly unfazed by Starbucks' presence, the anti-big-business slogans occasionally scrawled on chalkboards in front of his stores betray his fears about working next door to a corporate Goliath.

On September 25, only about five days after its neighbor began operations at 341 Eastern Parkway, the Pulp and the Bean's chalkboard read, "Everytime coffee is not bought here, a baby crys [sic] somewhere in the world." On a different day, the board at Fisher's other store, Bob and Betty's (an organic-foods market on the other side of the Pulp and the Bean), read: "Support big families not big business. Buy local."

There is no shortage of Starbucks in New York City. Last year, there were 283 Starbucks in the city (up from 272 in 2012 and 245 in 2009), according to the Center for an Urban Future, a NYC-based think tank that traces economic growth in New York State for policymakers. New Yorkers have grown accustomed to seeing a Starbucks every quarter of a mile, and the coffee company has evolved into a socioeconomic symbol.

Starbucks is often regarded as the last phase of gentrification in neighborhoods in the city. According to one Business Insider reporter, a new Starbucks suggests that a neighborhood is "up-and-coming," "a smart real estate bet." And the real estate part is one of the reasons Fisher is concerned. Rent prices in Crown Heights have risen in recent years.

"Two years ago [the rent was] $35 per square foot on Eastern Parkway," Fisher says. Now it's valued at $100 per square foot. "Starbucks will attract other corporate entities and rents in the neighborhood will go up," he adds.

Full article on The Village Voice Blogs