Tiffin Project

We Met at Starbucks

by Colter Jones on July 1, 2012

Post image for We Met at Starbucks

For those of you who don’t watch Christopher Guest films religiously this might help to explain the title.

“Twin” businesses are a marketing term for identical branded shops that open up right across from each other in prime real estate to control market share in a specific neighbourhood. For the past 20 years Starbucks has dominated the area around Robson and Thurlow becoming the focal point for many wisecracks about the excessive nature of having one Starbucks right next to another. Jokes aside, the twin Starbucks locations have garnered a lot of attention due to their unconventional placement. That’s why I was surprised to hear that our conjoined pairing has been separated with the recent closing of Vancouver’s original Starbucks location.

It’s not uncommon to see a pairing of Starbucks locations here in Vancouver. If you count the number of stand-alone shops that are located right across from a Safeway with a Starbucks inside there are quite a few, but none garner the same attention of the original flagship location paired with the beautiful brick location across the street. Rent issues have forced Starbucks out of their original Vancouver locale and now Caffe Artigiano is moving in. It’s essentially the Star Trek equivalent of having the Enterprise taken over into enemy hands. KHAN!!!!!

I typically don’t buy into the false sense of competition that is created by the media when one coffee shop opens up near another, but in this case it is interesting to see some competition develop in an area that Starbucks has controlled for the past 20 years. Obviously if rent was an issue for a large corporation like Starbucks bolstering over 19,500 stores, then opening up another coffee shop in the same space will be a challenge for Artigiano weighing in with their 14th location.

In a way the Artigiano business model strongly resembles the business model that Starbucks held many years ago. Their combination of Lamarzocco machine and swift grinder is one that Starbucks popularized until they switched to super-automatic machines, which was an upgrade in consistency but a substantial downgrade in quality. If properly executed the Artigiano platform serves as a higher quality coffee alternative, which may gain favour of the loyal Starbucks following in the area. Where else are all those motorbikes going to park?

Gaining the location of the original Starbucks in Vancouver could serve as a substantial moment in the Artigiano timeline. It could serve as a huge burden to pay rent that even Starbucks was not willing to pay, or it could serve as a huge boon to a brand that is neck and neck with JJ Bean for having the most number of Starbucks alternative locations. No one is sure what the future holds but we can be certain that people are talking about the corner at Robson and Thurlow, and that may be precisely the point.

~ Colter Jones

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: