A double grande announcement 

Starbucks Coffee announced Tuesday afternoon the chain would close 600 U.S. stores and cut as many as 12,000 jobs as part of a move to right-size the company, leaving local coffee drinkers to wonder about the fate of three Missoula stores.

The Seattle-based java giant said 70 percent of the company-operated stores it was closing had opened after 2006 and most were near other Starbucks locations.

The downtown Missoula Starbucks at 420 North Higgins Avenue opened in March 2006 and was the third company-operated Starbucks store to open in the area. The other two are located at 5260 Grant Creek Road near I-90 and at 2510 S. Reserve Street at the South Avenue intersection.

“I haven’t heard anything, but even if I did, unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to say anything,” said Scott Creekmore, manager of the downtown Starbucks.

Creekmore referred questions to Starbucks’ corporate media hotline.

“At this time, details of specific store closings are not being released,” said a company spokesperson at the hotline who was not allowed to give his name. He added stores would get 30 days notification before being closed and that no stores had been contacted yet. 

As of the end of last year, there were 15,756 Starbucks (including licensed, non-company-operated stores), up from 3,501 in 2001, making it one of the fastest-growing retail chains in the world. The company announcement said the closing stores—selected due to current lagging profits and because they are unlikely to “provide acceptable returns in the foreseeable future”—will be shuttered later this year or in early 2009. Starbucks will try to relocate affected employees to other nearby stores.  

Missoula’s three Starbucks, especially the downtown location, opened under intense scrutiny from dedicated drinkers of locally-owned coffee brewers. But the new store hasn’t effected the area’s more venerable establishments. Elisa Johnson, manager at Break Espresso, says Starbucks’ arrival ended up having little impact on business. The recent corporate news also didn’t ruffle her.

“I guess I’m not surprised,” she said. “They opened so many.”
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