Caffeinated competition 

A proposed Starbucks in the Shop-Ko parking lot on the corner of South Avenue and Reserve Street has caused espresso entrepreneurs all over town to choke on their lattes.

Angela Moser, owner of the nearby Copper Cup espresso, is worried the new Starbucks will add more traffic to an already busy intersection.

“The Starbucks consultant told City Council it wouldn’t change the traffic flow, but if you open a business you want the traffic flow to change,” she says.

Mark Landkammer at the Office of Planning & Grants is not so sure. “It’s a drop in the bucket,” the planner says. With 40,000 cars driving along Reserve Street on a daily basis, a new Starbucks isn’t likely to affect traffic by much.

But Moser isn’t the only one who fears the corporate medusa. “I’m not psyched about a new Starbucks,” Bernice’s Bakery proprietor Christine Littig says. The proposed café and its drive-thru window will lure customers away from local java joints, she says.

Does the entry of Starbucks mean the demise of Missoula’s independent coffee shops? Missoula is growing and so is the national market for fancy lattes— it jumped 19 percent between 1999 and 2003, according to a survey by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Even with 6,132 Starbucks cafes across the U.S., 57 percent of the nation’s coffee shops are still independently owned.

When Starbucks opened on Grant Creek Road last fall, Java Junction on North Reserve Street found itself in close competition. “It’s hurt our business somewhat,” owner Debb Tonn says. “Sales drop when a competitor comes in, but then it picks up again,” she says optimistically.

Before Magnum Development Corp. can commence construction on the new Starbucks, the lot must be rezoned from SC, shopping center, to C-1, commercial. Last week, City Council sent the matter back to the Plat, Annexation and Zoning Committee, which will take it up for discussion Feb. 2.

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