If the recent vote by Forbes Magazine--11th best little city to raise a family--didn't boost Warsaw's self-image, the addition of Starbucks has boosted local pride. The global coffee shop moved into our town with pomp and circumstance. The town is buzzing with caffeine and holiday cheer. "Warsaw [IN] has finally arrived," residents are saying. "Now I can die," others have said.
The Starbucks is strategically tucked in the front corner of the new Martin's Superstore. Shoppers who come in for fresh produce and dairy products can enrich their grocery shopping experience with a Peppermint Mocha. Those coming to restock their cereal shelf and purchase French bread can do so with a steaming cup of Pike's Place Blend in their hands.
Warsaw residents are finally in a position to shop and drink coffee at the same time. Glory, glory! Our time has come.
Since its Grand Opening, I've been to the Martins-plus-Starbucks twice. Both times there were lines for Venti Egg Nog Lattes. Both times shoppers were maneuvering their carts with their hips while their hands cupped Grande Sugar Free Vanilla Soy Lattes. Both times I watched shoppers swell with pride and renewed zeal for their little town. Both times I was sickened.
I am not anti-Starbucks. For six months I worked at one in Denver, making enough with tips to buy diapers for my newborn. Liz and I survived on the free pound of beans I received weekly. My boss treated me well, called me buddy, and once gave me a pin for my excellent service.
My gripe is not with the corporation, as much as with the consumer. Do we really need coffee to grocery shop? Really? Does a naked siren and green circle really make coffee taste better? Really? Are local coffee shops so inept that we need global players to come in and show us how it's done (and run them out of business in the process)? Really?
Unfortunately, we put more stock in a brand than a product. Americans prefer Starbucks to Latte Art and 1000 Park Bak-afe. Americans prefer Martins to Jones' Food Market. Americans prefer Community churches to Grace Brethren ones. Americans prefer Dan Brown books to Tim Sprankle ones. (Perhaps for good reason...he's published!)
In the end, the global brands will consume the local performers. Starbucks, Martins, and Dan Brown will run the world. Beware the brand, Warsaw, the Apocalypse is coming. And I'll be writing from the clouds.