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Top 10: Local-first advocates rally against corporate caffeine

2012-12-23T20:31:00Z 2012-12-31T19:31:16Z Top 10: Local-first advocates rally against corporate caffeineCHANTAL M. LOVELL Napa Valley Register
December 23, 2012 8:31 pm  • 

In 2012, drinking a cup of coffee in downtown Napa became a political act.

As soon as word spread in late 2011 that Starbucks might set up shop at the corner of First and Main streets, coffee aficionados and non–coffee drinkers alike took sides that only grew stronger this year.

On one side were those who said the coffee giant had every right to open in the heart of downtown and would attract other businesses to an area with a 20 percent retail vacancy rate. They touted free choice and free enterprise.

On the other side were those who said Starbucks was playing dirty by trying to open within a stone’s throw of a veteran downtown coffee shop, Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company. They wanted downtown Napa to be home to one-of-a-kind, locally owned businesses attracting both locals and visitors.

A grassroots group named Napa Local sprang up and began petitioning the City Council to adopt an ordinance that would strictly regulate which businesses could open in downtown, making it particularly difficult for chain stores to operate there.

In January, the group made its first appearance before the council during the public comment segment of the meeting. Representatives from the downtown business community also turned out, speaking against an ordinance regulating chain stores, saying it would hurt the district and pointing out that a number of chains were already represented in downtown Napa.

The council chose not to schedule a future discussion.

As rumors of a future downtown Starbucks became actual plans, with Eye Works Optometry moving out to create a space, Napa Local continued to work on a formula business ordinance. Its members met with small business owners, city leaders and residents trying to gain support for their cause.

In March, about 15 members of Napa Local asked the council to consider their request, but city leaders demurred. Now was no time to curb business development while downtown had so many commercial vacancies, councilmembers said.

The local-versus-national debate kept raging even as several small, family-owned shops opened near the proposed Starbucks, including Molinari Caffe, a block away from the Roasting Company.

The continued polarizing debate did not scare away Starbucks, which submitted an application to make design changes to the corner space in May.

Around the time the chain filed its application, the Coffee Roasting Company extended its hours, set up two bistro tables and chairs on the sidewalk and, in summer, released its “Slingshot Blend — A David vs. Goliath Story.”

By early June, Starbucks got staff approval to begin renovating the space for a late-September opening. No member of Napa Local appealed this decision.

Instead, members continued to post small signs in downtown windows identifying locally owned businesses in hopes they would attract like-minded shoppers.

On Sept. 27, Starbucks opened its doors and quickly built a clientele.

Many Coffee Roasting customers, meanwhile, vowed to stay loyal to their hub, saying they would never enter the wine-country-themed Starbucks.

The coffee house war has apparently ended with a truce. What’s certain is that more coffee is being drunk at Main and First than ever before.

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(14) Comments

  1. napapap
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    napapap - December 24, 2012 8:18 am
    Two additions, please. Napa Local gathered over 400 signatures of residents that stated they did not wish to see Starbucks open directly across from The Roasting Company. In addition to the individuals, 35 downtown businesses signed a declaration stating the same. These were all presented to the City Council beginning in January of last year.
    And, just to be clear, the signs that are still being offered are not political, but are a sincere and heart-felt show of support to our locally owned businesses in downtown Napa and beyond. Signs such as those are nothing new and first came to my attention with a AmEx sign that said 'Shop Local' that I saw in a storefront window.
    The shop local movement is long-standing and if you search for that you might be pleasantly surprised, as I was, to see the far reaching campaigns in the US to support the small business owner.
    I hope downtown Napa can retain some uniqueness and not be swept away by chain stores, especially First Street.
    patty peterson
  2. gettingreal
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    gettingreal - December 24, 2012 8:28 am
    The City Council understands what Napa Local doesn't. In a free market you vote with your dollar. If you don't like something, don't go there. If enough people don't go there, it goes out of business. I could understand asking your friends not to patronize Starbucks, but getting the City Council involved is just dirty!
  3. rel
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    rel - December 24, 2012 10:12 am
    gettingreal's comment about voting with your dollar is right on!

    By going to the Napa Council as Patty Peterson and about 14 other Napa Local members did only delayed, added costs and hurt the local property owner particularly when the property is zoned appropriately. Local property owners 'are' local businesses trying to enhance our downtown. I have been very pleased to see the property upgrades at the First and Main Street building. One should take note of the new improvements to the back of the building as an example.

    I have tried to obtain a list of the 35 businesses who signed the petition not wanting Starbucks on the corner of First and Main to no avail. Neither Napa Local, the City or NVR were willing to provide this information. Consequently when I see a "shop local sign" in a Napa business window distributed by a Napa Local member I will ask the business owner if they support Napa Local's philosophies. If they do I don't give them my dollar--I vote by leaving.
  4. rpcv
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    rpcv - December 24, 2012 11:33 am
    Of course, rel and others can vote with their dollars however they wish. But it's very short-sighted to boycott a shop for having a sign in the window thanking customers for supporting a locally-owned business. Signs such as these are found in stores all across the country and are simply meant to alert customers that the shop is locally-owned. Many of us go out of our way to support such businesses and it's disheartening that some would purposely NOT patronize them. You're only hurting your own community by doing so.
  5. rel
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    rel - December 24, 2012 12:23 pm
    rpcv--Like I mentioned above I will NOT patronize a business that supports Napa Local's philosophies of restricting competition which is unhealthy for our community. I support all businesses that are willing to locate in Napa and I rarely shop out of town..

  6. napapap
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    napapap - December 24, 2012 1:33 pm
    Okeydokey, once more and with feeling: these are not Napa Local signs, these are personally made signs that I wanted to give out, at my expense, to show support for the small business owner. It is disturbing that the focus, by some, is still on the Napa Local association. Set it free! Let go of your anger and embrace the fact that these local merchants are proud of who they are.
    patty peterson
  7. publiusa
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    publiusa - December 24, 2012 2:44 pm
    NVCR was a grubby hole in the wall despised by many for its poor service. Look what competition has done for them - they've spruced up, improved their service and their offerings. This is proof that free enterprise works without socialist meddling.
  8. publiusa
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    publiusa - December 24, 2012 2:46 pm
    I've seen some of those Napa Local signs - and I avoid those stores and businesses. No one is going to politicize my shopping!
  9. Demo Cracy
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    Demo Cracy - December 25, 2012 6:28 am
    St.Helena has a city ordinance banning chain stores. That keeps that home feeling that zillions of tourists flock to. Only two exceptions that were grandfathered in.
  10. rpcv
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    rpcv - December 25, 2012 7:57 am
    publiusa, I hate to break it to you, but shopping IS political. No avoiding it. Every dollar we spend makes a statement about what we value. When those dollars go to huge multinational corporations instead of the shop owned by your neighbor, that's sending a message.
  11. publiusa
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    publiusa - December 25, 2012 12:03 pm
    St. Helenans shop in Trader Joes, Target, Kohl's...and, they mob McDonalds and In and Out Burger...none of which are "allowed" in St. Helena.
  12. publiusa
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    publiusa - December 25, 2012 12:08 pm
    Wrong! Every dollar I spend is to obtain value for my money. I demand quality, selection, service and competitive price. I trust capitalism and a free market system to provide the market competition that gives that value for my money. I will never shop in a business for any other reason.
  13. glenroy
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    glenroy - December 26, 2012 6:05 am
    LOL...the time of Napa being for Napans went out of style with redevelopment.

    Most small retailers couldn't come close to paying $3.50sf plus per...if they could they'd be so over priced nobody would buy their products, least of all locals.

    It is what it is and that's all it is.
  14. glenroy
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    glenroy - December 26, 2012 6:13 am
    What's the difference between national or regional private corp or a franchise? There are a number of stores in SH that are in many other markets...the only difference is franchise.

    The only folks who actually buy stuff in St Helena are the very high end, which is fine, Napa doesn't have near the ratio of St Helena has while having over 800% more sf of retail...SH model works under high end because Calistoga, SR and Napa are within driving distance...
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