Current Trends in Coffee & Commerce

Well, I've had some time to calm down since my last post. I still don't like the guy in Little Falls, but I'm not sweating losing a small account, despite the fact that they were the ones who called me first (that still bugs me), and as Kate put it, "At least you're not working for a bitch."

I am obviously going to have to reconsider my business plan. Originally we wanted to contact every "mom & pop" coffee shop we could and become their roaster. Unfortunately, things aren't working out like that. It seems to me that the locally-owned coffee shop is becoming more and more rare.

People sure like building new strip malls, instead of finding older buildings. American consumers like things convenient, they want to go to one place and get everything. That's why places like Wal-Mart exist. But even the people who don't want to shop there still want everything centrally located.

So we keep building places where you can shop at many stores, but only park once. Places like that used to be called "downtown," but are now located any place that used to be a vacant lot. Then they charge rent based on the square foot, just like a mall would. Your basic mom & pop shop can't afford that kind of rent so they get a Caribou or a Dunn Brothers or a Starfucks. Locally-owned coffee shops are disappearing like locally-owned hamburger shops did. They won't become completely extinct, but they will become more and more rare.

The result is a different market than I have been dealing with for the the past 15 years and I have to adapt if I'm going to survive.


Cari said…
Muggsy, you're gonna be okay. This is just a hiccup. I love you because you're so fiesty.
LG said…
I'm reading a very interesting book right now ("Culture Jam" by Kalle Lasn) about corporate consumer culture and how it fucks with people. The basic gist of the book is, convenience aside, people don't really want the poison honey that corporate America feeds us, the Wal-Mart and McDonalds and of course, the Starbucks and all their ilk. We don't really derive pleasure and fulfillment from life experiences of pre-packaged consumerism, because it basically makes us, in the end, little different from livestock being lined up at the food troughs then sent back to await slaughter (though in this case, we don't get eaten, we just keep working shitty jobs to earn money to keep supplying the CEOs and other already-rich bastards at the top). The reason we always return to the trough is that we're conditioned to do so through the incessant, manipulative, and omniprescent advertising that gets pushed in our faces and ears from every possible direction and in every possible media.

As if to prove this point, I also recently attended a Sustainability Fair (yes, I'm a dork) where I heard a lecture being given on the importance of small businesses in sustainable economy (in other words, an econmy consisting of something other than the middle class and poor sending more and more of their money to the rich in a constant stream). One of the things that the guy there pointed out was that large numbers of locally owned, independent businesses are one of the single largest factors that cause touristy areas to be, well...touristy in the first place.

Fancy that! People who are leaving to escape the drudgery of their everyday lives actually choose the inconvenience and unpredictability of local restaurants, local shops filled with local products and artisan creations, local entertainment because it's *gasp* more pleasurable!

So why do they prefer the name brands during the other 50 weeks of the year? I don't know...but I think maybe that's what the soul-numbing monotony of working life does to us if we're not careful - it makes us automotons who prefer the conformity of experiences that don't remind us of the individuality we've had to give up in order to support ourselves.

So while I don't have much to offer you in the way of advice (except to maybe look for business in touristy areas if you haven't already and to get your website up so that I can pimp your beans to all my web-using friends), I want you to know how very hard I am hoping for you and how important what you're doing is. The world needs more people doing what you're doing, and far, far fewer Starbucks (who, as I understand, has comitted a laundry list of atrocities around the world that would make any evil warlord jealous).

So hang in there, Muggsy. Keep fighting the good fight. And as soon as Ryan and I can afford to start our angry political radical coffee shop (ha!), we wouldn't have any roaster in the world but you.
Anonymous said…
Actually, Dunn Bros shops are all locally owned (it's a franchise) you get an element of

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