Local Cafes Gain Customers During Starbucks Renovation

While under construction, Starbucks serves customers by drive thru only.  Photo by Megan Stoneberger Johnson.

If you pull up to Starbucks on the north end of town expecting to sit down and enjoy a cup of joe, you may be disappointed.  While the drive thru has reopened, the inside of Starbucks is currently closed for renovations, and Starbucks’ customers have ventured south to fulfill their java cravings.

“Somebody was knocking on the door at 6:55,  which we open at 7:00,”  Lindsey Kling, owner of Root Coffeehouse at 8th and Broadway, said of the first day of Starbucks’s closing.  “We did have our collection of regulars that we see often, but it was a lot of new faces.”  Kling reported that Root has seen nearly three times their usual business since Starbucks’s closure.

Derek Brumbaugh prepares shots of espresso at Root Coffeehouse.

A.O. and Donna Brown were visiting Root that day, although they said they would typically be at Starbucks.  A.O. said he has been a Starbucks customer since 1970 when the chain first opened in Seattle, but that he enjoys the coffee at Root as well.  “He’s a coffee drinker,” Donna said of her husband. “He’ll seek it out wherever it is.”

While Kling recognizes many of those newcomers will return to Starbucks when they reopen, she pointed out that Root has some things Starbucks simply doesn’t offer.  “We support local venders; we offer a lot of local products.  In addition to our coffee–we get our coffee from Signet, we get some of our coffee from Maps in Lenexa, our baked goods come from Sweet Designs–we offer so many different products by local artisans, so it’s more of a community experience than going to a chain.”

Quality matters to Kling.  “Another thing that sets us apart from Starbucks,” she said, “is we are very transparent about what goes into our drinks.” She boasted that their drinks have no high fructose corn syrup, including those with sugary syrups, and are gluten-free and non-GMO.  “In fact, that is why we do not have soy milk here,” she explained. “It is very, very difficult to find soy milk that is gluten-free…We want this to be a place for people who may not be able to eat and drink everywhere to feel comfortable.”

Sydney Ward Anselmi, Root’s assistant manager, also touted the coffeeshop’s location.  “We’re in a historic district,” she said. “That’s part of the appeal of being downtown.”

Also downtown is Signet Coffee Roasters.  Signet started out solely as a coffee roaster about 4 years ago.  Dennis and Leah Posterick, Signet’s owners, saw the need for a local coffee roaster shortly after moving to Pittsburg 6 years ago.  They now provide beans for coffee shops around the area including cafes in Joplin, Parsons, and Pittsburg’s own Root.

“Shop Small” flags wave in front of Signet on Small Business Saturday last November.

While most of Signet’s business is in selling whole and ground coffee beans, the Postericks added specialty coffee drinks to their menu about a year ago, offering drinks made with their own homemade caramel and whip cream.  “We want to make it perfect the first time,” Dennis Posterick said.  “First impressions make all the difference.”  In fact, according to Posterick, that is what “Signet” means: “impression made by.”

Posterick said that he has seen many Starbucks customers who claim they will now be getting their morning java at Signet.  When comparing Starbucks’s coffee to Signet’s, Posterick said, “Your tongue will tell you which is better.”

A little further south on Broadway is Spellbound.  Brett Thomas, owner of Spellbound, said they have also seen some Starbucks regulars this last week.  “A few came in very distraught because they did not have their Starbucks, and they didn’t actually know that there were other cafes in town,” he said.

Spellbound is a family business; Thomas and his mother are the shop’s only employees.  The idea for Spellbound began with Thomas’s desire to own a local bookstore.  This goal was first realized at Meadowbrook Mall in 2013, serendipitously coinciding with the closing Hastings.  “We hadn’t had it planned,” Thomas swears.

Last February, Spellbound moved to its current location at 1012 S. Broadway, making it possible to offer more seating and retail selections.  Thomas said that in comparison to Starbucks, he offers “better coffee and cheaper prices.”

“You have books to look at as well!” PJ Graham chimed in while perusing Spellbound’s selection.   Along with some classics and bestsellers, Spellbound has an array of works by local authors, such as Melissa Fite Johnson’s book of poetry While the Kettle’s On.  As for Spellbound’s signature drink, Thomas recommends the Spellbound latte, which is favored with a combination of white chocolate, raspberry, and hazelnut.  Spellbound’s beans are roasted by Heroes Coffee in Springfield, Missouri.

You can also try Heroes Coffee at PittCafe inside Ron’s Supermarket on Centennial.   PittCafe (formerly known as OaxaCafe) has also seen more customers in the last week or so, although store manager Drew Rhodes says he doesn’t know if the increased traffic has anything to do with Starbucks or if more customers are coming in because of the store’s anniversary sales currently taking place. Ron’s Supermarket is celebrating their 40th year in Pittsburg, but the cafe has only been here since 2007.

“A lot of people meet [at PittCafe] for meetings, or they come to get their lunch,” Rhodes said.  “They can get the salad bar or the sushi and get a drink.”

Rhodes pointed out that Ron’s offers a variety of products customers won’t find at other cafes.  “For breakfast, why not hit the produce department and grab a fresh cup of produce to enjoy with your coffee?” Rhodes suggested.  He hopes customers will experience great service at PittCafe and decide to keep coming back.

That is what each of these cafes is hoping, that customers will continue to support their local business.  For, as Lindsey Kling, owner of Root Coffeehouse, said, “If we can keep 10% of those customers we met this week, that is awesome for us.”

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