No to Planet Starbucks; Yes to Going Krogering?: Our Love-Hate Relationship With Intown Big Business

by Jack Kearns

I’m sure the Tirade Tyrant would disagree, but you know what I love about Atlanta? Hardly any Starbucks. How the hell did we swing that? Most other cities are lousy with ’em, suburbs too. The fact that places like Joe’s Coffee in the Village exists is almost enough to inspire actual hope. Not only do these local coffee shops survive, they thrive, and in cases like Octane and Inman Perk, they even multiply into second and third locations. Brilliant.

So how did we manage to keep Starbucks out? Or did they just not want to be here? We have a smattering Downtown, a few sprinkled around Midtown, and almost none south of I-20. There’s actually a website devoted to the ones that squeaked through the cracks. (Ok, the site tracks them in other cities too, but there’s still hardly any comparison to the number of locations in, say, Manhattan.) The closest intown location is in Little Five Points by North Avenue, yet somehow it seems to coexist peacefully with Aurora just a few feet over and Java Lords a stone’s throw down Euclid.

Back in the late 90s, there was a Save Emory Village grassroots campaign. Its goal was simple: to keep a CVS from taking over the local—wait for it—Kroger. At the time that was the more local company and lesser of two corporate evils. It was also a convenient neighborhood grocer, which is already hard to come by in town, let alone one that’s walkable for students. (Emory freshman aren’t allowed to have cars. It’s supposed to level the social playing field, when really it just creates an elite supergroup of first-year students who procure cars anyway.) Still, Emory Villagers were picketing with their children in the middle of North Decatur Road and all but chaining themselves to the bike rack out front in protest. Flash forward fifteen years later, and the community’s up in arms over the latest addition to Glenwood Park: a Kroger.

We gotta eat, people. And as long as Mom & Pop grocery options are still struggling to keep their doors open, this might be the best optionavailable. Significant sections of this city are in nationally recognized food deserts. (No, not desserts. Everyone knows food desserts are delicious. That’s not the point.) By all means, go to Your Dekalb Farmers Market, and don’t forget to support the pop-up markets in EAV, Grant Park, and elsewhere in town. But don’t act all aghast and go reaching for the torches and pitchforks to run out the same grocery store you were trying to save fifteen years ago. Save your moral outrage, neighbors. Trust me, you’re gonna need it.

map provided by Georgia Institute of Technology

 

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