White Center Dodged a Bullet When Starbucks took a pass on the Neighborhood
There is an interesting theory making the rounds in financial circles. The thinking is that the more Starbucks locations a place has is correlated to the degree of financial distress. The correlation is not with coffee, as countries with venerable coffee house traditions, Italy and Brazil, have not been hit as hard by the financial meltdown. According to Daniel Gross, the author of the Starbucks theory:
My tentative theory: having a significant Starbucks’ presence is a pretty significant indicator of the degree of connectedness to the form of highly caffeinated, free-spending capitalism that got us into this mess. It’s also a sign of a culture’s willingness to abandon traditional norms and ways of doing business (virtually all the countries in which Starbucks has established beachheads have their own venerable coffeehouse traditions) in favor of fast-moving American ones. The fact that the company or its local licensee felt there was room for dozens of outlets where consumers would pony up lots of euros, liras and rials for expensive drinks, is also a pretty good indicator that excessive financial optimism had entered the bloodstream.
The theory has some appeal for independent coffee houses, such as Cafe Rozella. Unlike Starbucks, you will find few independent coffee houses in the lobbies of financial skyscrapers. But, there is an interesting backdrop to this theory and White Center.
Sometime back, while White Center struggled to right itself financially, a play was made to get Starbucks to open up a location in the heart of White Center. In fact, the Walgreens Superstore at 16th and Roxbury contains the appended building designed to lure Starbucks to the neighborhood. Starbucks corporate staff studied the area and decided that there simply weren’t enough greenbacks floating around to justify a store in the area. We, at Cafe Rozella, only became aware of the Starbucks machinations after launching our coffee house. Had Starbucks opened a corporate coffee house in the middle of White Center would it had speeded up gentrification? Would it have driven up home values to unrealistic heights only to see them crash with the real estate bubble? Certainly, it appears that White Center and its surrounding environs have mostly been spared the overvalued real estate crisis overtaking the rest of Seattle. Perhaps we should be thankful that Starbucks took a pass on WC and drink a toast to Cafe Rozella.
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