Even though I don't drink coffee (I grow it, I don't drink it), I read with great interest the article "Don't Fear Starbucks: Why the franchise actually helps mom and pop coffeehouses."
Do you remember coffee consumption being so prevalent a decade ago? Fifteen years ago, the average person probably never entered a dedicated "coffee house" unless they really needed a cup of coffee (or were painfully artsy college students.) Most coffee was probably carried from home in a thermos, purchased from a breakfast diner or donut shop, or foully brewed in the break room. Sure, people have been addicted to morning coffee for a long time, but the coffee revolution is a recent one in my memory. Starbucks has made it trendy to carry around a branded cup of coffee--I guess that it took a big, commercial entity to market an $8 cup of machine-dispensed caffeine.
Starbucks is omnipresent on the street corners of most major cities in the United States. Conventional wisdom says that smaller coffee shops suffer when massive corporate entities open stores nearby. The article, however, contends that Starbucks has actually been a boon to many mom-and-pop coffee shops. "Strange as it sounds, the best way to boost sales at your independently owned coffeehouse may just be to have Starbucks move in next-door."
Some snippets from the article:
"Each new Starbucks store created a local buzz, drawing new converts to the latte-drinking fold. When the lines at Starbucks grew beyond the point of reason, these converts started venturing out--and, Look! There was another coffeehouse right next-door!"
"... when Starbucks blitzed Omaha with six new stores in 2002...business at all coffeehouses in town immediately went up as much as 25 percent."
"...if Starbucks can make a profit by putting its stores right across the street from each other, as it so often does, why couldn't a unique, well-run mom and pop do even better next-door?"
The article (found at the link above, and is about 2 pages long) doesn't completely glorify Starbucks, though. It recounts the techniques Starbucks has used to antagonize competitors, including pursuing competitors' leases!, and describes cases where people were forced out of the market. However, the article contends that this (the coffee shop failure, not the intimidation) is an exception to the rule (the numbers they cite regarding the success of running a coffee shop is impressive, if believable.) It also differentiates Starbucks from chain stores like Home Depot and Wal-Mart, which can have devastating impacts on local markets.
An interesting read nonetheless.