So the fact that Starbucks is closing 600 stores got me thinking. They are not the only coffee shops going dark lately. A couple independents that opened near me in the last year or so have passed away in the last few months. The rising cost of energy, food, housing, and other essentials is impacting people's discretionary spending. The $4 latte has been a casualty. But even without these influences, have we reached a point where coffee is no longer a growth industry? Are there enough coffee shops? Will the McDonald's Cafe and Dunkin Donuts siphon patrons from the purer coffee purveyors? Has the public simply reached its coffee drinking limit, or perhaps grown accustomed to the novelty of a double-shot, organic, free-trade, shade-grown, decaffienated, skim, no-whip mocha frappachino with a piece of biscotti?
The answer has implications well beyond the viability of the coffee industry. Just as in the 1970's it was a sign of "civilization" to see a McDonald's, Starbucks, Caribou, and even independent coffee shops have come to be seen as indicators of economic health and some level of culture. Whether it may be an inner-city neighborhood or a rural community, the arrival of a coffee shop - especially a known brand like Starbucks - has been taken as a sign of revival. If this is no longer true, is there a replacement? If not, how long will we have to wait for the "next big thing" to arrive?