Starbucking the Locals

Sunday’s story , Projects in City Center Up Hotel Demand, is worth some discussion both in its seeming validation of those who see Bremerton as a growing city, and for those who are feeling perhaps a bit forced out of the discussion. (The photo on the left is of the former Bremerton City Hall, which could become a hotel.)
First off, however, let me mention that the story underestimated the number of rooms to be available in downtown Bremerton. The total, if everything pans out, will be around 380.

Another point worth mentioning. The story included this paragraph briefly telling the Vancouver, Wash. renewal story.

As it was in Bremerton, Starbucks and Subway were among the first retail believers in downtown Vancouver. Now, five years later, a variety of stores call downtown home, including a year-round farmers’ market.

It’s all true and may be somewhat coincidental, but perhaps I should have called Starbucks a “national retail believer,” or something like it, because locals have been doing business in Bremerton for some time.
I got a letter, from which I’ll include a portion:

It is tiresome to read over and over again that Starbucks has been the savior of downtown Bremerton. While there can be no denying that the likes of Starbucks have contributed to the current dynamic downtown economic recovery, the local businesses that believed in Bremerton “back when” there was not much reason to go downtown deserve some credit as well. Yes, there was life B.S. (“before Starbucks”). Perhaps local retailers who took the risk when there seemed little incentive to do so, and who continue to serve a substantial clientele, should be remembered as well.

I will point out that a week ago I did a story on the changing restaurant scene in Bremerton and the only non-local restaurant mentioned was Anthony’s. Also, I don’t think the reference was meant to suggest that Starbucks is a “savior” of downtown. Beyond that, however, it’s not helpful to understate the significance of Starbucks, not as a savior but as a sign. Starbucks has had a reputation for years of being everywhere.
For example, in 1998 on an episode of The Simpsons, Bart is walking through the Springfield Mall looking for a place to get his ears pierced. He passes by one Starbucks after another. He finally finds In & Out Ear Piercing, with the slogan “If it dangles, we’ll punch a hole in it.”
The clerk asks Bart what he wants and Bart says he wants his ear pierced. The clerk responds, “Well, better make it quick, kiddo. In five minutes this place is becoming a Starbucks.”
Yet Bremerton, until 2004, didn’t have one. Bainbridge Island didn’t, either, but that was because islanders actively fought it until the company planted a shop in the Safeway store.
Getting one doesn’t mean Bremerton is saved, by any means, because there is still a lot of work to be done downtown. It also cuts into revenues for local businesses, no question.
Its relevance in this story is its status as an outsider venturing into an area for the first time, here and in Vancouver. Should the downtown momentum continue, most would hope the tide rises for everyone. It doesn’t always work out that way.

3 thoughts on “Starbucking the Locals

  1. What Starbucks’ presence means to me is that a very, very savvy marketing company sees a real marketplace in downtown and took advantage of the location. THAT is a positive.

  2. Chad Lewis writes:
    Steve is right about Starbucks being a sign. Market research is extremely expensive, so national chains often rely on each other.

    For example, a restaurant or retail outlet that is straddling the fence on whether to open a location in Bremerton might look at Starbucks and say, “Hey, there must be something to this place.”

    You might think, “Well, shoot — who doesn’t have a Starbucks?” Well, as a Georgia native, I can tell you that a lot of places don’t, including my hometown and surrounding cities. Sure, it seems like Starbucks just plops down a store anywhere, but they are extremely savvy at market research and location sites — a key reason why the company is so overwhelmingly successful.

    It’s not that we need a Starbucks to validate our city as being viable. Personally, if Starbucks pulled out, no tears in my latté. But other companies will piggy-back on their market research. Whether or not that’s good for Bremerton deserves it’s own blog entry from my fellow reporter, Steven Gardner.

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