Caffé Latte? Caffé-a-lot is more like it. Yes, Charleston loves its coffee, and nobody knows that better then Starbucks, the unstoppable coffee magnate that has turned small into “tall” and made venti … well, venti. With an announcement last month that the company would expand from more than 12,000 locations worldwide to 40,000 locations — including 20,000 in the U.S. — Starbucks’ apparent attempt to rule the coffee-craving world will begin in our own backyard.
Renovations at the Piggly Wiggly on James Island’s Harborview Drive will produce the island’s first Starbucks, with the Pig promising to get the frou-frou coffee brewing at other locations. Meanwhile, Starbucks will make its free-standing North Charleston debut in December on International Boulevard across from the North Charleston Convention Center. The two new locations will put 13 in the Charleston area: that’s more than a quarter of the 49 Starbucks in the state.
“We want to go where our customers need us to be,” says regional spokeswoman Shannon Pariaug.
It’s sort of a Stepford marketing statement, but it may be fair when you consider the upscale coffee options in the burgeoning North Charleston burg that has snagged the new location. A BP gas station and McDonald’s fast food shop are around the corner and that’s about it.
The Piggly Wiggly location won’t actually be a Starbucks. Sure, the servers will likely be hip 18- to 25-year-old baristas and the walls will be molded in pleasant curves painted in muted browns, greens, reds, and oranges. But it’ll be one of more than 5,000 licensed Starbucks, similar to those Barnes & Noble Cafes. Bi-Lo recently announced it was pulling its licensed Starbucks from several stores, including a few in Mt. Pleasant, so it could create its own coffee shop branding, but the lil’ Starbucks are still popping up in Piggly Wigglys, Targets, and Krogers across the state.
There’s already a Starbucks on Kiawah Island at Newton Farms, a high-end Piggly Wiggly, says Pig spokeswoman Rita Postell, and the grocer has three in stores in Myrtle Beach and one in Columbia. Piggly Wiggly is planning to open another Starbucks in the spring at its Maybank Highway and Main Street location on James Island, Postell says.
“We’ve determined there are a lot of people who like to enjoy a good cup of coffee,” she says.
While Pariaug wouldn’t commit to any further Starbucks expansion plans in the market (reiterating that they “go where they’re needed,” apparently like some mocha latte X-Men), the next Starbucks could show up a few blocks from your old reliable frappuccino feeding hole.
While the company’s announcement of world domination included promises to reach uncharted international markets, a key component of the plan is to expand the green awnings in markets where the coffee giant is already established.
As an example of this infill expansion, the Maybank Piggly Wiggly is just a short jaunt over the river from the South Windermere Starbucks. And it’s hard to imagine there’s anywhere left to put a Starbucks in downtown, with the King Street, Harris Teeter, East Bay and Calhoun Street Starbucks within three blocks of each other.
The concept is that people don’t want to walk too far for coffee, and when they get there, they don’t want to wait in a line. So the answer is to make the experience as convenient as possible. Even if that means a Starbucks across the street from a Starbucks, says Launi Skinner, senior vice president in charge of Starbucks’ store development.
“Going to the other side of the street can be a barrier,” Skinner tells the Associated Press.
Some may argue that if someone is so lazy they can’t get across the street, they should just bring their coffee from home. But with Starbucks coffees on the shelves in grocery stores, the caffeine-enabling empire has that covered, too.